The second Intifada – commonly referred to by Palestinians as al-Aqsa Intifada – began after then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon sparked the uprising when he stormed al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem with more than 1,000 heavily armed police and soldiers on September 28, 2000.
The move sparked widespread outrage among Palestinians who had just marked the anniversary of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, for which Sharon was found responsible for failing to stop the bloodshed, following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.
But prior to Sharon’s controversial move, frustration and anger had risen year after year among Palestinians on the backdrop of the refusal of successive Israeli governments to abide by the Oslo Accords and end the occupation.
Diana Buttu, a Ramallah-based analyst and former adviser to the Palestinian negotiators on Oslo, told Al Jazeera: “Everybody, including the Americans, were warning the Israelis that the Palestinians are reaching a boiling point, and you need to calm down. Instead, they turned up the fire even more.
“Sharon’s visit was the spark that lit up the Intifada, but the groundwork was laid in the years before that.”
Under the Oslo agreement by May 4, 1999, there was supposed to be an independent Palestine, Buttu noted, adding from the start of negotiations in 1993 until the start of the Intifada “what we saw was a fast expansion of Israel’s settlements”.
“In fact, we saw that the number of settlers doubled from 200,000 to 400,000 just in that short period from 1993 to the year 2000. You can see that what was happening on the ground was designed to ensure that there wasn’t going to be an independent Palestinian state,” she said.