Intifada (Arabic for uprising) is the term used to describe two periods of unrest and violence between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, initially in the late 1980s and then again at the turn of the new millennium.
The First Intifada, which began in 1987, was a protest by Palestinians against Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in place since the Six-Day War of 1967. Triggered by a road accident in which four Palestinians were killed, the First Intifada led to widespread Palestinian protests, riots, and stone-throwing against Israeli military targets. The uprising quickly spread across the Palestinian territories and was promoted and supported by Yasser Arafat and the PLO from their headquarters in exile. Israeli troops responded to the Intifada with a military crackdown in attempts to quell the uprising. The Intifada also resulted in the stagnation and virtual destruction of the fledgling Palestinian economy and only came to an end with the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO.
The Oslo Accords paved the way for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; but a Second Intifada broke out following years of stalled peace negotiations, intermittent terror attacks against Israeli civilians and a failure to reach a final deal during the Camp David summit between Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton in July 2000. Many also cite then Likud chief and opposition leader Ariel Sharon's September 2000 visit to the Temple Mount as a key factor in the outbreak of the violence. The visit was perceived as a deliberately inflammatory act, aimed at reinforcing Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, a site in the Old City of Jerusalem sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
The second uprising, known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, saw the increasing use of suicide bombers by Palestinian terror groups against Israeli civilians. The particularly bloody campaign of terror attacks against Israeli civilians in 2002, culminating in the attack at the Park Hotel on the first night of Passover, led to the Israel Defense Forces’ campaign Operation Defensive Shield, which sought to stamp out the terror groups responsible for the attacks.
The Intifada resulted in tremendous loss of life on both sides, and a widening rift between Israel and the Palestinians. The violence gradually abated down after years of bloodshed, but the two sides, scarred and mistrustful, have yet to return to the negotiating table on a permanent basis.