Shooting attack at Tel Aviv's Sarona complex, June 8, 2016..
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Away from the spotlight, security forces have, in recent months, succeeded in foiling an increasing number of attempts by Palestinian terrorist organizations to carry out bombings and shootings in Israeli cities. But there is no such thing as hermetic defense and while the majority of these plots have been thwarted, security forces are not able to stop every killer before he or she attacks.
The security quiet that Israelis have felt recently – in the longest lull since violence erupted last October – has been the result of steady operations by the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) against terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank, and the terror funders, often from the Gaza Strip.
The fact that police have two live terrorist gunmen in custody means the investigation into Wednesday night’s attack can advance quickly. The Shin Bet and police will want to know who – if anyone – sent these gunmen, and whether more cells like this are planning additional shootings. It is too soon to be able to answer such questions, but reports that the gunmen came from the Hebron area - a known Hamas stronghold - might mean that they received support and guidance from the group.
In April, security sources revealed that they had foiled a large number of mass-casualty terror plots by Hamas, stopping them right before they planned to execute their attacks.
Despite the success, the efforts have not stopped. Sources in the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, together with the Shin Bet, have reported an ongoing series of attempted attacks orchestrated by Hamas, though the intelligence “noise” made by the cells has enabled security forces to pounce in time.
Lone attackers, or even cells made up of two terrorists who are not backed by a larger organization, are far harder to detect in time. As a result, Israeli-Arab Nashat Milhem was able to shoot dead two Israelis at a Tel Aviv bar in January, before being shot dead in a raid by security forces a week later in his home town, where he was hiding.
More recently, a Bethlehem-based Hamas cell made up of several members was able to send a bomber into Jerusalem, where he boarded a bus and detonated an explosive device in April, wounding 19 passengers