The 2002–2003 Etna eruption is studied through earthquake distributions and surface fracturing. In September 2002, earthquake-induced surface rupture (sinistral offset ∼0.48 m) occurred along the E-W striking Pernicana Fault (PF), on the NE flank. In late October, a flank eruption accompanied further (∼0.77 m) surface rupturing, reaching a total sinistral offset of 1.25 m; the deformation then propagated for 18 km eastwards to the coastline (sinistral offset 0.03 m) and southwards, along the NW-SE striking Timpe (dextral offset 0.04 m) and, later, Trecastagni faults (dextral offset 0.035 m). Seismicity (<4 km bsl) on the E flank accompanied surface fracturing: fault plane solutions indicate an overall ESE-WNW extension direction, consistent with ESE slip of the E flank also revealed by ground fractures. A three-stage model of flank slip is proposed: inception (September earthquake), climax (accelerated slip and eruption) and propagation (E and S migration of the deformation).