Senior IDF officials think the chances of an intifada breaking out in Judea and Samaria are low, but are nevertheless preparing for the worst-case scenario in the event that peace talks fail, army sources said on Wednesday.
By March-April, when the nine-month deadline set for the talks approaches, “We want to be ready for everything,” a high-ranking military source said.
He added, however, that he did not “identify any real momentum [among Palestinians] that is unusual compared to the current situation.”
Currently, the IDF has fewer than 20 battalions securing the West Bank, but that number would increase in the event of an upsurge in Palestinian violence.
Regional events had a strong influence on the Palestinian arena, the source noted, “especially relations between Egypt and Gaza.”
The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt affected Hamas-Fatah relations in Fatah’s favor, and Hamas was in distress, he said.
The past six weeks have seen an unusual cluster of seven Palestinian terrorist attacks, including a sniper killing a soldier in Hebron, the murder of an Israeli civilian in the Jordan Valley, and most recently, a shooting attack on an Israeli vehicle near Nil’in on Saturday evening, which damaged the car but failed to wound anyone.
“There’s no infrastructure behind these attacks, and no [direct] connection. But we can’t ignore seven incidents. Is it an escalation, a trend? These are questions we’re wresting with every day. The last time we had two back-to-back incidents was in 2010,” the source said.
“There’s an atmosphere of terrorist attacks. People are being swept into this,” he added.
Referring to a recent attempt by a Palestinian to kill soldiers by running them down with a bulldozer in their base near Ramallah, the source said the army’s investigation found that the driver, who was shot dead at the scene, didn’t plan his attack ahead of time. It was a spontaneous attack caused by an “atmosphere of terrorism,” the source said.
Palestinian Authority media were not condemning such acts of violence, the source said. At the same time, no organizations or cells were behind them and the attacks were spread out geographically.
The general Palestinian population was showing no signs of getting behind a new wave of violence, despite common calls in the Palestinian media to “defend” the Aksa Mosque.
“The most influential aspect is economic,” the source said.
“We have an interest in having a financially sound Palestinian Authority. This keeps violence down,” he said. Throughout the sector, riots have decreased, and those that do occur take place in the same hot spots such as Bil’in, Ni’lin and Kadum. “A third of the participants are foreigners, a third are journalists, and the last third are people who were told to come,” the source said.
Meanwhile, in the Hebron area, a complex security arena where Jews live adjacent to Palestinians, the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have been able to thwart Hamas attempts to carry out attacks.
According to a source from the IDF’s Judea Brigade, 80 percent of security suspects arrested in the southern West Bank are Hamas members.
“Terrorism is being guided from Gaza. They [Hamas] don’t want to break the cease-fire in Gaza, so they extend a long arm to here, to Judea and Samaria,” the source said.
Hamas was trying to rebuild its terrorism infrastructure in Gaza through summer camps, charities and student associations, but its attempts were failing due to the Shin Bet’s tight intelligence grasp of the area.
“We’re not letting them lift their heads, neither Hamas in Hebron nor Hamas in the outlying villages,” the source said.
He expressed concern over the 6,000 to 7,000 Palestinians who sneak across the Green Line every month to work illegally, a route terrorists could also use.
A security fence separating southern Israel from the West Bank was complete, but was too basic to stop infiltrations, the source said, calling form an inter-organizational effort to improve the barrier.
The Hebron area was home to many thousands of Palestinian workshops and factories, and was the hub of the PA’s marble industry, the source said. The area appeared sleepy, but could ignite into mass rioting instantly if a trigger appeared, before going “back to sleep,” he cautioned.
“My interest is that the Judea Regional Brigade will be the most boring area,” the source said. To that end, the IDF, Border Police and Israel Police cooperate to quickly contain incidents and maintain normal life for all residents, he said.
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