A Palestinian youth is silhouetted as he holds a toy gun and a Koran during a protest after Friday prayers on Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Clashes on the Temple Mount on Sunday have, once again, led to an increase of tensions in Jerusalem, and Hamas in Gaza wasted little time in calling on Palestinians to rally around the Aksa Mosque.
Hamas seeks to exploit such incidents to promote violence in the capital, and in the West Bank. This would serve its goal of regaining a foothold in an area ruled by its Palestinian rivals, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.
Over the past year, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cracked no fewer than 150 Hamas cells in the West Bank, many of which were set up and operated remotely by the organization’s headquarters in Gaza or Turkey.
Yet despite the domestic intelligence agency’s strikingly high success rate, the Shin Bet’s preventative efforts are not foolproof.
Earlier this month, the Shin Bet arrested members of a Hamas terrorist cell suspected of shooting and killing Israeli civilian Malachi Rosenfeld in June – one of two deadly shooting attacks in the West Bank that month. The cell was led by a Hamas operative based in Jordan who was released as part of the Schalit prisoner swap.
“Hamas is attempting to rebuild its infrastructure in Judea and Samaria,” a security source told The Jerusalem Post. “It is seeking to set up cells and get them ready for the day the order [to attack on a large scale] arrives. This is our main effort, to thwart these efforts,” he said.
The second Israeli casualty of terrorism in June, Danny Gonen, was shot by a Fatah-Tanzim cell from the Kalandia area. According to the security source, this cell operated independently, without outside help. “There is a rise in motivation among Fatah-Tanzim members to carry out attacks. And there is no shortage of weapons” in the territories, he added.
Unorganized violence, which often appears in the form of a riot, or a lone-wolf attack in which an individual terrorist goes on a stabbing spree or tries to run over pedestrians, remains a threat, though according to the Shin Bet’s figure, such cases are not spiking.
The Shin Bet recorded 120 terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria in June, compared to 151 in May. These attacks include fire-bombings, explosive devices, small arms fire, and numerous rock-throwing attacks on Israeli vehicles, as well vehicular attacks aimed at running over Israelis.
Despite the drop in the number of incidents, the attacks in June were far more severe in their outcome, resulting in deaths and serious injuries, due to the increase in shootings.
Additionally, if the past five months are examined as a whole, one can see an unmistakable rise in violent incidents.
Still, the security source said, “We are not saying we are in an intifada. There is no wave of terrorism.”
Additionally, he said, most of the attacks remain unorganized. A number of attacks can be traced to incitement, of the kind that comes from the Palestinian Authority and its media outlets.
However, with more incidents like last week, when two Palestinians were killed on two successive days during violent clashes with security forces, the likelihood of increased lone wolf or organized actions against Israelis can’t be downplayed.
Addressing the escalation on the Temple Mount, the source drew attention to the groups of organized Muslim worshipers known as the Mirabitun (males) and Murabitat (females), who maintain a permanent presence on the site, and scream at Jews who come to visit the site under heavy police escort.
“The Temple Mount is always explosive,” the source said. “Police try to counteract that. The activities of the Mirabitun inflames the tensions.”