Analysis: The dramatic rise of 'grassroots' terror in Jerusalem and the West Bank

Organized terror is actually on the decline, struggling to form effective cells.

October 4, 2015 13:31
3 minute read.
Palestinian West Bank

A Palestinian protester hurls a Molotov cocktail at Israeli troops following a demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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We all have the feeling that terrorism around us is increasing, however the numbers show that it is a different type of terrorism than that to which we were once accustomed.

Since the beginning of the year, there has been a dramatic rise in so-called grassroots terrorism, including Molotov cocktail and stone throwing, and lone-wolf attacks on vehicles, and stabbings, such as the deadly assaults on Saturday night in Jerusalem.

Yet organized and institutionalized terrorism is actually on the decline.

Palestinians have murdered eight Israelis since the beginning of 2015, a significant drop compared to 19 in 2014.

The reduction in fatalities is largely because organized terrorist groups are having trouble launching attacks due to intensive counter-efforts of the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and Palestinian Authority, which have been thwarting most attempted attacks on the part of the traditional organized groups.

Since the beginning of the year, three cells have succeeded in carrying out deadly terror attacks, including the Kalandiya cell, led by a former Palestinian police officer, which killed Danny Gonen at the Ein Bubin spring in the West Bank. That was a local cell with no clear organizational backing; the Silwad cell, which carried out three shooting attacks in the Binyamin area and murdered Malachi Rosenfeld near Kida in the West Bank, was a Hamas production, directed from Jordan by a terrorist sent into exile in the Schalit deal; and the Samaria cell, which murdered Eitam and Naama Henkin on Thursday, and also may have carried out the shooting attacks in recent weeks at the Jett junction and in Hawara - attacks that ended with no injuries. This appears to be a particularly deadly cell. The planning and execution of the couple shows the skill and the calm under pressure of the terrorists.

Nobody knows if the lives of the four children in the Henkin's vehicle were saved by accident or if the terrorists avoided hurting them on purpose. The terrorists' car overtook the Henkin's car in order to make sure that they were Israelis. The terrorist that was on the driver's side opened fire while driving and fired multiple shots at the front part of the vehicle. At this stage the terrorist couldn't see who he was hitting and therefore mere luck prevented the children from being hit.

When Eitam Henkin stopped the car, the terrorists' car stopped next to him and the shooter got out, firing another shot at short range at the couple. Did he see the children and choose not to hurt them? Nine-year-old Matan said that he saw the terrorist, but what happened there we may only know after they are arrested. Over the weekend, there was significant progress in the investigation of the attack and the Shin Bet has displayed confidence that it can quickly catch the terrorists, but the challenge is to prevent them from carrying out another attack before they are caught.

In the meantime, the IDF has lain down a wide "blanket" of four more battalions in an effort to minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon is leading a considered and calm policy with the understanding that an additional serious attack against Israelis or Palestinians could spark an even bigger fire.

With the end of the holidays this week, a decrease is expected in the amount of violence in Jerusalem and at the Temple Mount, which has been a factor in the unrest. But no one is expecting real quiet in the capital or in Judea and Samaria.

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