In December 1987, an uprising by the Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip broke out against the IDF and Israeli settlers in these areas. This uprising, known as the Intifada, was accompanied by terrorist operations within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. The goal of the Intifada was to establish a sovereign Palestinian state. The Intifada, which began as a spontaneous uprising of large numbers of Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza, was supported by PLO dissidents and extremist Islamist movements abroad, until the mainstream PLO succeeded in obtaining the upper hand to direct this revolutionary wave.
During this period, nearly 27,000 attacks and many disturbances occurred. The characteristics of the revolutionary activities in the field changed according to the IDF response. The number of mass violations of order decreased as the number of attacks by terrorist groups and terror acts increased. A reduction in PLO hostile attacks was observed after the signing of the Oslo agreements in September 1993. With the establishment of Palestinian Authority in Gaza and Jericho in May 1994, the extremist Islamic organizations took responsibility for all terrorist activities.
Despite a reduction in the number of attacks, recent years have witnessed an increase in the lethality of attacks, particularly those against Israeli civilians – a total of 1,011 casualties in 1994, 74 of which were mortalities. An additional increase was observed in 1995-96, reaching the number of dead experienced during the IDF’s deployment in Lebanon: nearly 100 dead in a year. However, in contrast to Lebanon, the majority of those murdered and wounded are civilians, within the borders of the Green Line.
The IDF, which was surprised by the outbreak of the Intifada, initially failed to maintain order in areas under its control. Other security forces found themselves in a similar situation. Consequently, in the first year, the IDF reorganized itself in the territories. It established new, higher-level HQs (a division in the Gaza Strip and another in the West Bank); doubled and tripled the Civil Administration regions; and significantly reinforced forces.
However, it took the IDF a number of years to realize that operations against insurgency and terrorism in the territories and Lebanon was becoming its primary task. Consequently, in 1992, the level of the personnel and the command positions designated for this task were significantly changed. Only in 1995 did this activity appear in the annual planning of the IDF.
The IDF viewed most of the Intifada years as a “passing phenomenon” and/or as a problem which could only be solved politically and/or as a problem which did not affect the existence of the State of Israel. Therefore, treatment of the problem was of secondary importance in comparison with the handling of strategic matters. It was only in 1996 that the fight against terrorism was viewed as a potentially strategic problem and an inter-agency coordinating body was established to deal with the fight against terrorism.