The Third Intifada: A new chapter in Palestinian struggle for liberation

By Ali Abou Jbara, The Cradle

This article was posted on The Cradle website June 29.

Resistance activities intensify across the West Bank, indicating another potential uprising with similar causes as the previous two intifadas.

The evolving armed resistance suggests a heightened level of sophistication and adaptability among the resistance groups.

Palestinians in Gaza demonstrating in solidarity against Israeli assault on Jenin, July 3, 2023. (Credit: Middle East Eye)

The occupied Palestinian territories have undergone a series of significant changes since last year, with the most notable being the escalation of resistance operations in the occupied West Bank. This development has transformed the territory into a frontline between Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation state, reminiscent of the atmosphere during the Second Intifada over two decades ago.

That the occupation army has reactivated its assassination policy through targeted airstrikes against resistance figures has solidified this line of argument.

The question that has been circulating for some time now is whether this signifies the onset of a third Palestinian intifada. Alternatively, a more realistic inquiry would be to determine when exactly the current uprising began.

Following the battle of Sayf al-Quds (“Sword of Jerusalem”) in May 2021, the frequency and organization of resistance attacks significantly increased. What initially started as individual actions by Palestinian youth groups evolved into coordinated operations supported by various resistance factions across the West Bank.

Growing support for another Palestinian uprising

The intensification of resistance operations led to over 28 Israeli deaths by the middle of 2023, in comparison to 31 deaths the previous year. This dealt a significant blow to the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who, alongside his far-right allies, boasted during their election campaign that only they could prevent such attacks. However, the passage of time proved otherwise for “Mr. Security” (as Netanyahu is often referred to).

On June 20, four Israelis were killed near the illegal Eli settlement in the West Bank. Just a day earlier, during the storming of the Jabriyat neighborhood in the Jenin refugee camp, a booby-trapped device exploded, injuring seven Israeli soldiers. The operation, claimed by the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), compelled the Israeli army to deploy combat helicopters for the first time since the Battle of Jenin in 2002.

Israeli Channel 14 published statistics on the first six months of 2023. The report claims that 147 operations took place in the occupied West Bank against the occupation forces and settlers, 80% of them (120 operations) shooting operations. As for the entirety of 2022, a total of 202 operations were carried out, 74% of which (150 operations) involved the use of firearms.

Meanwhile, the year 2021 witnessed 117 operations in total, 51% of which (60 operations) were carried out with firearms. In just one week of June 2023, 15 shootings were recorded in the occupied West Bank.

The numbers clearly indicate that resistance operations in the occupied territories have been on the rise, along with the percentage of the usage of firearms.

Aside from resistance developments on the ground, Palestinian public sentiment also suggests another intifada is imminent. In March, an opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed a significant increase in the percentage of individuals supporting armed confrontations and an intifada.

Just over 60% in the West Bank expected the outbreak of a third armed intifada, while almost 70% expressed support for the formation of resistance factions, such as the Nablus-based Lions’ Den.

Another 70% of respondents also felt that “punitive measures” by the occupation forces against Palestinians would lead to further escalations and retaliatory attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers.

Under the current extremist Israeli government, attacks against Palestinians have surged, exemplified by recent assaults by settlers on the towns of Turmusaya and Huwara. These attacks resulted in the death of two Palestinians and the destruction of numerous homes and vehicles, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation forces.

This intifada will be different

Over the past year, the Israeli occupation forces killed 167 Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank, 50 in the Gaza Strip, and four in the occupied Palestinian territories. The grim reality continues for Palestinian prisoners, with approximately 4,700 individuals, including more than 500 Jerusalemites, enduring harsh and inhumane detention conditions.

Among them, about 700 are suffering from various illnesses, and tragically, four prisoners have lost their lives due to the occupation’s policy of medical negligence. Furthermore, the year 2022 witnessed the arrest of 7,000 Palestinians, including 850 children and 160 women.

On the other side of the conflict, the number of settlers killed in Palestinian resistance attacks has risen to 31 this year, a significant increase compared to five in 2019, three in 2020, and four in 2021. This surge in Israeli casualties evokes memories of 2002, when the Israeli army launched Operation Defensive Wall in the West Bank in an attempt to suppress resistance and quell martyrdom operations.

The Israeli Prime Minister at the time, war criminal Ariel Sharon, dubbed the month of March as “black,” when 105 Israelis were killed, including 26 soldiers, in martyrdom operations. Under the illusion of ending the Al-Aqsa Intifada (which he provoked in the first place by visiting the mosque’s compound), Sharon gave the green light for an invasion of the West Bank.

According to Daoud Shehab, a spokesperson for the PIJ, there have been attempts in the West Bank to extinguish the national spirit and create a new generation that embraces coexistence with the occupation and normalizes its presence. However, these efforts have proven unsuccessful. Shehab tells The Cradle that, “Today, it has been proven that all these attempts failed.”

In a March report by Reuters, it was argued that any new Palestinian uprising will be completely different from previous ones, as it will be disconnected from traditional Palestinian leadership, yet informed about Palestinian suffering through social media.

The report highlighted [that] the escalation of “spontaneous” armed attacks in the West Bank against the occupation forces and settlers, the endeavor of some young people to announce their affiliation with Palestinian factions, and the emergence of armed groups such as the Lions’ Den and Jenin Brigade are all indications that something out of the ordinary is happening.

The Nablus-Jenin nexus

The Lions’ Den has garnered widespread popular support, transforming into more than just a group of individuals. It has become an idea that unites Palestinians across political parties and affiliations. Together with the Jenin Brigade, these groups pose a significant threat to the Israeli army, which can no longer storm Nablus and Jenin without encountering armed resistance.

Moreover, both groups have transitioned from a defensive stance to an offensive one — taking the initiative in attacking occupation checkpoints and settlements surrounding the two cities in an unprecedented manner not seen since the Second Intifada.

Confrontations with enemy soldiers have evolved beyond gunfire, now involving the use of improvised explosive devices, raising serious concerns among the Israeli army and the Shin Bet security service. On March 14, Haaretz newspaper reported the growing unease within the army and Shin Bet regarding the rising attempts to manufacture local IEDs: “During the second intifada, in the first years of this century, terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were intensively involved in preparing explosive charges and explosive belts, which were the most lethal and effective weapons against Israel.”

Despite operating under siege and facing numerous challenges, the resistance groups have succeeded in transforming the occupied West Bank into a battlefield where the occupation army faces attrition.

The de facto Intifada

Under the current Israeli government, the Palestinian people’s awareness of the occupation’s plans for Judaization and settlement is growing, along with their determination to confront the far right.

On March 13, the spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, Abu Hamza, called for a renewed intifada, stating: “We call on all the fighters among our people and the free people in the West Bank and in Israel to mobilize for this war, so that there will be an overall intifada that will create the basis for the end of our enemy and its expulsion from all of Palestine.”

Hamas refugee affairs official Issam Adwan agrees on the likelihood of another uprising, informing The Cradle that, “the people are the ones who resist and the pace will increase … Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Israeli occupation will be able to curb it.”

Developments are not restricted to the situation on the ground — Israel sends political messages to the Palestinian people, from which one can understand that the only option to liberate the land is through “revolutionary violence.”

In addition to the continuation of building settlements and the seizure of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Hebrew media revealed on June 26 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee in the Knesset that the idea of a Palestinian state must be “eradicated.”

His statement expresses the systematic Israeli policy towards the Palestinians for three decades — that the only option before them is to surrender. But recent events have revealed that the Palestinian people reject kneeling.

In February, CIA Director William Burns expressed his concern over the situation in the West Bank resembling the prelude to the second Palestinian intifada, signaling Washington’s apprehension about the Palestinian Authority losing control. He stated that the CIA is working in coordination with the PA and Israel to achieve stability.

However, it is not necessary for the current circumstances to resemble those preceding the previous two intifadas for them to be labeled as such. Clear distinctions existed between the first and second intifadas. The first, which erupted in December 1987, started as a popular struggle primarily characterized by stone-throwing incidents and became known as the “Stone-throwing Uprising.”

In contrast, the Second Intifada involved armed acts of resistance, whether in Gaza, the West Bank, or through special operations in the 1948 territories. It witnessed the participation of both the public and the Palestinian resistance factions, along with a significant portion of the official PA apparatus.

Israel closely monitors the developments in the Palestinian landscape and is deeply concerned about the level of confrontation with the occupation. The “Intifada of Knives” that emerged in 2015 has transformed into acts of resistance that are affecting Israelis across all of Palestine. While a precise name for the current situation may not yet exist, it is evident that a new uprising is in the making — and its true nature will become clearer with time.

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