By the end of 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak found himself presiding over an increasingly bitter and bloody cycle of violence as the intifada raged against Israel's occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.
With his coalition collapsing around him, Barak resigned as prime minister on 10 December to "seek a new mandate" to deal with the crisis. However in elections on 6 Febuary, Ariel Sharon was swept to power by an Israeli electorate that had overwhelmingly turned its back on the land-for-peace formulas of the 1990s and now favoured a tougher approach to Israel's "Palestinian problem".
The death toll soared as Sharon intensified existing policies such as assassinating Palestinian militants, air strikes and incursions into Palestinian self-rule areas. Palestinian militants, meanwhile, stepped up suicide bomb attacks in Israeli cities.
The US spearheaded international efforts to calm the violence. Envoy George Mitchell led an inquiry into the uprising, while CIA director George Tenet negotiated a ceasefire - but neither initiative broke the cycle of bloodshed.