The last quarter of 2018 saw a significant increase in lethal Palestinian terror attacks. What are the reasons?
Since September 2018, there has been an increase in the number of “significant” Palestinian terrorist attacks carried out in Judea and Samaria, a report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) shows.
“Significant” attack is defined by the ITIC as involving shooting, stabbing, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above. Stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians are not included.
During 2018, 54 terrorist attacks were carried out in Judea and Samaria. About half, 26, were carried out in September-December, while 12 were carried out during the same period in 2017.
Most of the attacks were stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks. Three were lethal shooting attacks, which claimed the lives of four adults and a baby.
However, the report noted that despite the rise since September, there has been an annual decline since the peak of popular terrorism, which began in September 2015.
The report further noted that alongside the increase in “significant” terrorist attacks, the routine of rock and Molotov cocktail-throwing attacks and the placing of IEDs in Judea and Samaria continues.
The recent attacks were more of a military-type, and the shooting attacks have been carried out by an organized squad or squads, which killed four adults and a three-day-old baby. In some of the attacks, military-grade weapons were used and the shooters were daring. Hamas has been quick to claim responsibility, although not all the shooting attacks were necessarily carried out by Hamas squads.
Hamas systematically incites terrorism in Judea and Samaria, with operatives in Hamas’ military wing allocating resources from the Gaza Strip, Turkey and Lebanon to establish a military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria.
Their activities include recruitment, transferring funds, training and smuggling weapons.
Israel’s counterterrorism efforts, and to a certain extent those of the PA security services, have so far prevented widespread institutionalized military terrorism, which could lead to a sharp increase in the quantity and quality of the attacks.
The head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Nadav Argman reported in the Knesset in November that 480 significant terrorist attacks were prevented during 2018. Similarly, 590 “lone wolf” terrorists were located and neutralized and 201 Hamas terrorist squads were exposed.
The ITIC pointed out that these are significant numbers and indicate the extent of the activity under the radar.
Why the Increase in Attacks?
The ITIC did not find one definitive answer because the fundamental social and political climate has not meaningfully changed since the beginning of the year.
The Palestinian public continues to show little response to the intensive incitement by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and to the calls to join the demonstrations, rallies, riots and clashes with the Israeli security forces.
Even the “return marches” in the Gaza Strip and the rounds of escalation, and the relocating of the American embassy to Jerusalem, did not bring the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria out into the streets or cause a significant increase in the number of terrorist attacks.
What did bring them out was the social security tax law the PA is trying to pass, an internal Palestinian issue which has infuriated the Palestinians.
However, the ITIC offered three possible causes for the rise in terrorist attacks in recent months:
– Imitation: The “success” of one attack inspires others. In the past, one “successful” popular attack has led to a series of copy-cat attacks. The lethal shooting attack in the Barkan industrial zone, where the attacker managed to evade the Israeli security forces for nine weeks, may have been a catalyst. His success in killing Israelis and eluding the search for him led to a wave of sympathy and admiration and may have also led to imitation attempts.
– Hamas’ successful establishment of a Samaria-based terrorist squad: Hamas has sought to encourage military-type attacks and turn them into a third intifada. According to the IDF, Hamas may be affiliated with the operatives who carried out recent attacks, especially the lethal shooting attacks in the Ramallah region.
– The persistent weakening of the PA and the decrease in the level of security coordination with Israel. The PA and Fatah are becoming weaker. Behind the scenes is the struggle over the inheritance of the leadership of the PA when Mahmoud Abbas dies. In addition, the PA’s ability and motivation to continue security coordination with Israel is on the decline.