Israel’s large-scale military raid into the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank this week had undeniable similarities with the second Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s — a period that claimed thousands of lives.
But the current attack — which ended after two days on Wednesday — is also different from those intense years of violence. It's a symptom of a conflict with no foreseeable end.
The Palestinian leadership is weakened, and the Israeli government has been accelerating the expansion of illegal settlements that have eroded any chance of Palestinian statehood.
WHAT IS AN INTIFADA?
The word that means “shaking off" in Arabic was coined to describe an uprising against Israel's military occupation that erupted in 1987. It ended in 1993 with an agreement of mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
What became known as the first intifada was marked by widespread Palestinian protests and a fierce Israeli response.
The second uprising, which began in 2000, pitted Palestinian militant groups against a far more powerful Israeli military. Over 4,000 people died, including vast numbers of civilians. Roughly three times as many Palestinians as Israelis were killed.
Israeli crackdowns upended Palestinian lives, including placing tight restrictions on movement that choked the fledgling economy.
Those events were initially fueled by widespread participation. Many Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians for their state — joined in the protests.
The protests were also driven by the Palestinian leaders, including President Yasser Arafat. The intifada petered out after Arafat died in 2004 and the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, took power.
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?
In the spring of 2022, Israel launched near-nightly raids into Palestinian areas of the West Bank, prompting a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
The death toll on both sides has risen, making last year one of the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank since the second intifada.
The violence has only intensified since Israel’s current far-right government, which is made up of hard-line ultranationalist settlement supporters, took power late last year.
At least 185 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources. On the other side at least 25 Israelis were killed. Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained.
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
The region has not seen such a sustained cycle of violence since the second uprising, which lasted about five years. More recent periods of bloodshed have not lasted this long or involved such a strong show of force by the military.
The tactics seen Monday, with airstrikes, armored bulldozers and a brigade of troops, were a mainstay of the second uprising.
But analysts say that’s where the similarities end.
For one, a monthlong Israeli military operation in 2002 that was seen as the peak of the fighting during the second intifada involved an intense clampdown on most cities in the West Bank. Israel’s raids over the last year have been smaller in scale.
Other differences, analysts say, include the weakened Palestinian leadership and the lack of popular participation. While protests have erupted in response to the raids, they have not engulfed the entire West Bank.
Ziyad Abu Zayad, a Palestinian analyst and former Cabinet minister, said the fighting is best described as “waves” of Palestinian anger, not an uprising.
“The problem is not security, but rather political. And as long as there is no political solution, these waves will continue," he said. "People, mainly young people, want to live in freedom and dignity. They see no future for themselves, and they only see oppression from the occupation.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
There is no end in sight to the fighting. The military raids have tended to fuel more attacks that prompt even more raids.
Similarly, the Israeli far-right government has intensively advanced settlement building further dimming hopes for a negotiated solution to the conflict.
The last 16 months, including Monday's large-scale raid, showed Israel lacks a long-term vision for how to deal with the Palestinians, said Michael Milshtein, a former military official and head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University.
“We need to start thinking strategically about the Palestinian issue,” he said. “We can’t just keep plastering over it.”
Abu Zayad, the Palestinian analyst, said Israel's government is instead pushing the Palestinians “toward more extremism and violence.”
“If there is opposition to the idea of a Palestinian state, these waves are likely to remain for long periods to come.”
*This story was edited by Ahram Online