Operation Defensive Shield

Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada.

It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the increasing deaths from terrorist attacks.

Operation Defensive Shield began on March 29, 2002, with an incursion into Ramallah placing Yasser Arafat under siege in his Ramallah compound, followed by incursions into the six largest cities in the West Bank, and their surrounding localities. The Israel Defense Forces invaded Tulkarm and Qalqilya on April 1, Bethlehem the next day, Jenin and Nablus the next. From April 3-21, the period was characterized by strict curfews on civilian populations and restrictions of movement of international personnel, including at times prohibition of entry to humanitarian and medical personnel as well as human rights monitors and journalists.

According to The Guardian, during the three weeks of Operation Defensive Shield at least 500 Palestinians were killed and 1500 were wounded. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society over 4,258 people were detained by the Israeli military. The Israeli offensive left 29 Israeli soldiers dead, and 127 wounded. In addition to loss of life, massive economic losses due to destruction of property and the inability to reach workplaces were a major characteristic of this period. The World Bank estimated that over $360 million worth of damage was caused to Palestinian infrastructure and institutions, $158 million of which came from the aerial bombardment and destruction of houses in Nablus and Jenin. Large sectors of the Palestinian population were left homeless by the operation. Long after Operation Defensive Shield was over, Palestinians spoke about the intensity of the closures during that period, and the Palestinian Authority did not manage to fully address damaged infrastructure for approximately two years after the invasions.

The UN report on the subject says, "Combatants on both sides conducted themselves in ways that, at times, placed civilians in harm's way. Much of the fighting during Operation Defensive Shield occurred in areas heavily populated by civilians and in many cases heavy weaponry was used."