On October 12, 2000, IDF reservists Vadim Norzhich and Yosef Avrahami were lynched by a Palestinian mob while detained at the el-Bireh police station in Ramallah after accidently entering the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled city.
Marking what would become the onset of the more violent Second Intifada following the collapse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in July, the events of October 2000 became among the most brutal timeframe in the history of relations between the two peoples. The Ramallah lynching itself also became one of the first mass publicized incidences of political violence in the internet age, having been widely broadcasted in Israel and around the world.
The event began when Norzhich and Avrahami, two IDF reserve duty soldiers, drove in their civilian vehicle to a meeting point at the settlement of Beit El, when according to accounts, the reservists were unfamiliar with the West Bank road system and drove through the military checkpoint outside Beitunia. From there, they entered the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
Arriving to a Palestinian roadblock, the reservists were detained by PA policemen and taken to the local police station in Ramallah's twin city el-Bireh, close to the headquarters of PLO chief Yasser Arafat. The detention of the two reservists incidentally came at the same time of a funeral service Palestinian youth who had been killed by Israeli forces a few days earlier. Likewise, over 100 Palestinians has been killed in violent confrontations with Israeli security forces in the weeks prior.
According to accounts, rumors spread that Israeli undercover agents were being detained at the police station, prompting a crowd of over 1,000 to gather calling for their deaths. While Israeli intelligence got word that the reservists were being detained and a crowd was gathering, the IDF allegedly decided against a rescue operation due to the presence of PA security forces in the area. Haaretz and Maariv, The Jerusalem Post's sister publication, also reported that 13 Palestinian policemen were injured trying to prevent the mob from storming the station and conducting the lynching.
The IDF reservists were murdered by the crowd via beatings and stabbings, with one Italian news outlet later capturing the infamous photo Aziz Salha raising his blood-soaked hands to the cheering crowd. The reservists' bodies were then thrown out the window, mutilated and set on fire. The bodies were then dragged to Al-Manara Square in the city center. PA security forces, aware of the seriousness, attempted to confiscate film showing the events.
Video of the lynching caused widespread shock in Israel, and led to extensive military retaliation against PA targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including Israeli Air Force Apache helicopters the police station where the incident took place, the headquarters of the Fatah-aligned Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terrorist organizations, and the Voice of Palestine radio station among others.
The lynching was perhaps a watershed moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and set the course of the next five years of great suffering during the Second Intifada (2000-2005), taking the lives of over 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 of Palestinians.