The fifth anniversary of the Palestinian intifada is being marked across the Arab world.
A half decade of conflict saw 1,064 Israelis killed (according to the IDF Spokesman Office), of which 745 were civilians, and 319 members of the security forces.
Since 2000, 7,462 Israelis have been injured, of which 5,212 were civilians.
Over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed, and tens of thousands injured. Around 8,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned for terror related offenses. Palestinian officials have told Ynet that they saw Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria as the intifada's most significant attained goal.
On October 28 2000, Palestinians began rioting on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the visit of then Likud chairman Ariel Sharon's visit to the site.
Sharon arrived at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, and the third holiest site in Islam, with a number of Likud Knesset members. Hundreds of Palestinians in the area confronted police and shouted "Allahuakbar."
Security forces managed to rescue Sharon and the Likud members from the site, but the riots only increased, and ended with 25 injured among both Palestinians and police.
After the visit, Sharon said, "I'm sorry for those injured and wish them a quick recovery, but it is the right of every Jew in Israel to visit the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is in our hands." Meanwhile, the Palestinian territories erupted into violence, which spread to the Arab Israeli sector.
Muhammad Ranaim, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and a Fatah leader, said a third intifada was very possible. "There could be a third intifada, which would be much more severe than its predecessor. This will be the intifada against the fence," he told Ynet.
Ranaim, a Jerusalem resident, was in the al-Aqsa mosque when riots began there five years ago. "I was there with Marwan Barghouti, Faisal Husseini, and with the crowd in the mosque," he said.
"It's true that Israel created facts on the ground. It's true that Israel's wish is to bring us back to the September 2000 lines, instead of 1967, but this is a shallow view. Our positions have not changed. We haven't given up our demands regarding borders, refugees, Jerusalem, and the 1967 lines, and our struggle against the fence and settlement expansion. Israel presents the disengagement as a unilateral move, but the Palestinian struggle forced Israel to take this step. We won't live under occupation."
Ranaim said Palestinians won't live in peace in a Palestinian state which has the settlements of Ariel and Gush Etzion "stuck in its heart," also mentioning Maaleh Adumim and the Jerusalem area.
'If we fail at the U.N. we'll launch third intifada'
"On this matter, we are preparing a difficult struggle for Israel. We'll go to the U.N., to the Security Council, and demand that the decisions of the court be applied regarding the separation fence. If we fail, we'll go to the General Assembly, and if we don't succeed, we have a third option, and that is more resistance, another intifada, and this will be a lot more severe than its predecessor," said Ranaim.
He added: "The resistance is a historic phenomenon created during these years, and it is created from the fact that there is no life with the occupation. If Abu Mazen does not succeed in the diplomatic path, the only option remaining is the resistance, the intifada. From my perspective, the bottom line is that Israel did not defeat the Palestinian resistance. Israel withdrew from Gaza and accepted the road map, so everyone should realize that this intifada achieved."
Senior al-Aqsa Brigades member: The next intifada is on the way
Abu Araj is a al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander in the Jenin area. From his perspective and those of his people, "the third intifada is almost here, and it will be much worse. It will be an intifada against the fence, for the release of prisoners, for the liberation of Jerusalem, and the rest of the land."
Dozens, or perhaps hundreds of Abu Araj's friends have been killed, injured, and arrested in the last five years. "How can I say this wasn't worth it when Israel withdrew from Gaza and took away settlements in the Jenin area. It's because of the blows that Palestinian organizations landed on Israel's head and on the heads of the settlers," said Abu Araj.
Riots erupt at Temple Mount (Photo: Zoom 77)
The al-Aqsa commander vowed that the conflict would continue. "Our strategy is to liberate all the occupied lands. The Palestinian people are ready to make sacrifices for Jerusalem and the rest of the territories, against the fence and the settlements. We estimate that the next confrontation is getting closer, we're really on the brink of the third intifada, and it will be much more severe. The truth is I don't see a diplomatic solution on the horizon that will stop its eruption."
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, who runs the al-Aqsa mosque, was also in the site when Ariel Sharon visited the area. Hussein says his main concern is for the fate of the mosque and claims threats have been made against the structure. "Sharon arrives with 3,000 security forces and enters the mosque with force. He invades it and then the confrontations begin, with injuries, difficult scenes, very difficult," said Hussein.
Hussein says the site is exclusively Muslim, telling Ynet that "the mosque is Muslim, it belongs only to the Muslims. That's what Allah wanted, he who awarded the mosque to the Muslims, and he who says that the mosque is the Muslims' only, and we don't recognize any other way, we don't recognize any compromise, like in the burial site of Abraham, or any other place."
The first ceremony to mark the five years of the al-Aqsa intifada was held in a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus. Around 5,000 Palestinians took part in the mass ceremony, and carried pictures of Yasser Arafat, and former Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin. The Islamic Jihad pointed mock missiles at Israel, and its members held a sign reading, "The Palestinian resistance must continue because it is the only way to freedom."