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Israel Blunts Uprising's Impact

One of the most dramatic shifts in the conflict has been in day-to-day loss of life. Fewer Israelis are being killed but more Palestinians are losing their lives. In the first nine months of this year, 478 Palestinians and 90 Israelis were killed, compared with 392 Palestinians and 171 Israelis killed during the same period last year.

A key reason for the sharp decline in Israeli deaths has been Israel's increasing ability to stop Palestinian suicide bombers. So far this year, 13 suicide bombers have hit Israeli targets. In all of 2003 there were 44 suicide bombings and in 2002 there were 61.

A Palestinian opens his door to Israeli soldiers securing the West Bank city of Hebron during a visit of Jewish pilgrims to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Frequent operations by Israeli security forces have helped reduce the loss of Israeli civilian and military lives. (Oded Balilty -- AP)

Four Years of Fighting: The Palestinian uprising, or intifada, completed its fourth year on Sept. 28. Here is a statistical look at some elements of the conflict.

According to figures provided by the Israel military, two out of three bombers reached their targets in 2001. This year the ratio has fallen to one in nine.

"The reason we don't have [as many] Israeli casualties is because we are successful in fighting terror," said Gideon Meir, a senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "We are pinpointing more and more terrorists."

Palestinian militant groups, under pressure from Egyptian mediators and many senior Palestinian political leaders to curb their violence, are also making fewer attempts to dispatch suicide bombers, despite public opinion surveys showing that Palestinians overwhelmingly support continuing the attacks. Thus far this year, 92 potential bombers were dispatched compared with 229 in 2003, according to Israeli military figures.

Palestinians and an increasing number of Israelis and international organizations contend that Israel's military efforts to crush Palestinian militant groups have caused excessive loss of life and property to civilians and subjected an entire population to severe hardship. Both President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have said that Israel must end its "daily humiliation" of Palestinians.

In the past year, the Israeli military has increased the demolition of Palestinian houses, razing of farmlands and destruction of olive groves. Since the uprising began, the Israeli military has demolished 2,751 homes -- nearly 40 percent of them in the first eight months of this year, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. It has uprooted or burned 382,695 olive trees -- 30 percent of them this year, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture.

Israel contends, at least in some cases, that the olive trees are used as cover by Palestinian militants to fire rockets. Other trees have been removed to make way for the West Bank barrier. Israel routinely destroys homes belonging to relatives of suicide bombers.

Palestinian cities in the West Bank have become isolated from one another by 659 checkpoints, roadblocks, trenches and earthen walls maintained by the Israeli military. Palestinians are often forbidden to drive on major thoroughfares.

As a result, Israel has been threatened with international boycotts, economic sanctions and divestiture. In July, leaders of the Presbyterian Church in the United States voted overwhelmingly to begin "selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel." In August, the 100-plus-member Non-Aligned Movement adopted a resolution calling upon members to ban the import of goods produced in Jewish settlements. Two weeks ago, a nongovernmental conference meeting at the United Nations drafted a plan for sanctions against Israel if it does not dismantle settlements and the West Bank barrier.

In an effort to head off the prospect of sanctions, Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently recommended that the government consider applying the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, formally acknowledging that they are occupied territories.

Any such move would be a sharp reversal of Israeli policy. For decades, Israel has rejected applying the Geneva Convention -- which forbids the transfer of civilians to an occupied territory -- to areas it captured in the 1967 war, arguing that they are "disputed territories" that were not sovereign before the war.

Researchers Hillary Claussen, Samuel Sockol, Ian Deitch and Soufian Taha contributed to this report.

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