Israeli security forces stand at the site where an Israeli was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
As the waves of violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem ebb and flow, in just two days a stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City and a vehicular ramming attack in the northern West Bank claimed the lives of three Israelis, including two soldiers.
Adiel Colman was stabbed to death Sunday in Jerusalem’s Old City by 28-year-old Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel from the West Bank. According to Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, Fadel had received a permit to look for work and had spoken to several vendors in the Muslim Quarter before carrying out the attack. Fadel was shot and killed on the spot.
On Saturday in the northern West Bank, brigade commander Cpt. Ziv Daus, 21, and 20-year-old Sgt. Netanel Kahalani were killed when Ala Kabach rammed his car into them. The Shin Bet said that Kabach had been released from Israeli prison last April after serving time on security-related charges. Kabach was caught by troops and admitted under interrogation that he carried out the attack for nationalistic purposes.
Both Fadel and Kabach are believed to have acted alone, two more so-called “lone-wolf terrorists” in what has been called the “Knife Intifada.” In the wave of violence that began in October 2015, Palestinian youths have stabbed, run over and shot Israeli soldiers and civilians, including some tourists, in the West Bank and Israel.
Even with Israeli security forces, including the Shin Bet, the IDF and the police increasing their efforts to prevent such lone attacks, 17 Israelis were killed in 2016, another 20 in 2017.
In the first three months of 2018, five Israelis have been killed.
Data released by the Shin Bet showed an uptick in attacks in the month of February, with 149 attacks, compared to 118 to the previous month. There were 118 in the West Bank alone, another 20 in Jerusalem.
By comparison, in the month of December 2017, the agency recorded 249 attacks, 234 of which were carried out in Jerusalem and the West Bank. In November there were 84 total attacks, only one did not occur in the West Bank or Jerusalem.
DESPITE THE numbers, prominent Israeli military analyst Ehud Yaari, on a call organized by The Israel Project, stated that there has been “no change in pattern or intensity in lone-wolf attacks” in the West Bank.
There has been “no departure from what we have seen in last few years in the West Bank, which has been more or less contained by Israel, which is better able to anticipate them by screening social media,” Yaari said.
“You have some better months, some worse months. The IDF has changed the way they gather intelligence and hundreds of attacks are foiled,” he said, explaining that while many attackers may not have any relation to political groups, many will change their Facebook profile pictures knowing that they will be killed during the attack.
“Israeli intelligence agencies look out for that,” said Yaari.
The IDF does not only rely on social media screening in preventing attacks. Troops carry out nightly raids in the West Bank, confiscating illegal arms and terrorists’ funds, giving Israel flexibility and the upper hand against possible lone wolves and even organized cells.
The security coordination with the Palestinian Authority, which continues despite the tension, has also prevented a good number of attacks against Israelis. Some were planned by Hamas with the intent to ignite a new wave of violence in the West Bank. One such Hamas-funded attack in January
near the outpost of Havat Gilad claimed the life of Rabbi Raziel Shevach.
But the army cannot carry out the same sort of preventive measures in the Gaza Strip, where during the 100 days since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, weekly protests along the border fence have grown increasingly violent, with protesters bringing firearms and grenades to use against IDF troops on the other side of the fence.
During these riots, Palestinians have also planted several improvised explosive devices on the border fence. In mid-February, one was hidden inside a flag pole on the fence that detonated, seriously injuring four IDF soldiers.
Following that incident, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis warned, “These spontaneous demonstrations are also used for terrorist activity, and these events will be met with an uncompromising response.”
On March 30, Palestinians will mark Land Day and Israel’s security establishment is bracing for thousands to riot across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, demanding that Palestinians be allowed to return “home” to Israel.
Groups have also called on Gazans to erect a tent city as close as possible to the border fence and remain there until “Nakba Day” on May 15 as a form of peaceful resistance.
This will pose a dilemma for Israel: With an uptick of violence in the West Bank and facing the new trend of IEDs being placed on the fence during the protests, will Palestinians in their tents receive the “uncompromising response” Manelis warned about?