30 years since first Palestinian intifada erupted


Jerusalem (AFP)

Thirty years ago, on December 9, 1987, the first intifada or popular Palestinian uprising broke out, inflaming the occupied territories for six years.

- Deadly accident sparks uprising -

On December 8, 1987, four Palestinians from the Gaza Strip's Jabaliya refugee camp are crushed to death by an Israeli lorry.

The accident sparks violent clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian demonstrators in eight camps the next day as the victims are buried.

It is the start of the first intifada, largely based on stone-throwing, which spreads like wildfire throughout the occupied territories.

- Iron fist -

Inhabitants of the Palestinian territories, under Israeli control since the Six-Day War in 1967, have been submitted since August 1985 to the "iron fist" policy of Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin, seeking to end any show of resistance.

Surprised by the extent of the uprising, Rabin first gives the order to "break the bones" of the Palestinian demonstrators, before going on the acknowledge that there is no military solution to the intifada.

Youths, some as young as 10, use their familiarity with the terrain to battle Israeli soldiers.

Troops who have not been trained for such conflicts respond to stones and petrol bombs with fire from automatic weapons.

For the first time since the Arab-Israeli conflict erupted 40 years earlier, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, around one and a half million people, engage in open conflict with Israel.

Israel accuses Syria, Iran and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) of fomenting the violence.

In fact, the intifada is a popular movement born of Palestinian frustration at two decades of occupation, and PLO leaders exiled in Tunis are among those taken by surprise.

- More than 1,200 Palestinians killed -

On September 13, 1993, the Oslo Accords are signed in Washington by Israel and the PLO, granting Palestinians limited autonomy over the territories where they live.

The signature leads to the historic handshake between Rabin, now prime minister, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

On September 24, the PLO orders militants to stop attacking Israeli troops.

In six years, 1,258 Palestinians have been killed by soldiers or Jewish settlers, according to an AFP tally based on Palestinian sources.

Most of the casualties, of whom nearly a quarter were under 16, occurred when Israeli troops broke up demonstrations.

Around 150 Israelis are killed, for the most part later in the uprising when it intensifies under the direction of Islamists from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad organisation.

Rabin says in 1994 that between 120,000 and 140,000 people passed through Israeli prisons during the intifada.

Rabin is assassinated a year later by a Jewish extremist opposed to the peace process.

The second intifada erupts when right-wing Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon pays a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied east Jerusalem on September 28, 2000.

The Israeli army was to reoccupy much of the West Bank, before launching a vast offensive in 2002.

In 2005, it withdrew its last soldier from Gaza under a unilateral disengagement.