The 31-year-old woman from east Jerusalem who loaded a gas cannister into her car and drove in the direction of Jerusalem early Sunday had very real intentions of committing a mass-casualty atrocity in the capital.
Fortunately, she did not have the training, know-how or luck to carry out her plot.
This appears to be a case of a terrorist having the intentions, but not the capability, of pulling off a major attack.
It remains unclear whether the woman, who divided her time between east Jerusalem’s Jebl Mukaber neighborhood and Jericho, acted alone, or had some assistance from terrorist accomplices. Security forces also are investigating whether anyone else knew about her plans.
Military perspective - Not an intifada yet
A gas-filled container with some flammable equipment represents a low-end type of terrorist attack. In the past, Hamas has organized deadly bomb attacks in the heart of Israeli cities using powerful explosives produced in terrorist laboratories in the West Bank and strapped onto suicide bombers.
A search of the woman’s car by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Sunday recovered hand-written notes expressing support for “martyrs,” or Palestinians killed while seeking to murder Jews in defense of a perceived and wholly unfounded Israeli threat to the Aksa Mosque.
Although the attack failed, it points to the continued deep radicalization of far too many of east Jerusalem’s residents, who have become prone to the poisonous messages of the Islamic Movement, Hamas and elements of Fatah.
This problem cannot be solved within days, weeks or months. Any security flare-up can trigger some of the most radicalized residents of east Jerusalem to go on murderous attacks against Jews, usually by themselves.
A long-term program, alongside security measures, is needed to battle the forces that have succeeded in pushing their fanatical agenda on east Jerusalem.
The chronic problem is that security forces usually have no way of telling when a lone-attacker, or a very small cell, will make the decision to kill. And there is no way to pluck out the attackers from the wider population of east Jerusalem – residents who have no intention of harming anyone, and are merely interested in getting to and from work to feed their families.
This situation raises complex and disturbing questions about the future of the capital, and how best to move forward with security – and non-security measures – to prevent, rather than merely just respond, to terrorists with Israeli residency status.