Five years later, another student murdered in the West Bank - analysis

The previous kidnapping and murder of three led to 2014's Operation Protective Edge.

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August 8, 2019 19:51
3 minute read.
The area where the body of 19-year-old Dvir Sorek’s was found near the community of Migdal Oz

The area where the body of 19-year-old Dvir Sorek’s was found near the community of Migdal Oz. (photo credit: TAL LEV RAM)

It seemed like a repeat of a nightmare from five years ago. The body of a student who had gone missing hours earlier. Killed in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem.

The discovery of 19-year-old Dvir Sorek’s body near the community of Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem on Thursday morning sent shock waves through the tight-knit community, leading many to wonder if this murder would trigger another round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

On the night of June 12, 2014, Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach waited at a popular hitchhiking spot next to the Alon Shvut settlement south of Jerusalem, hoping to catch a ride toward their respective homes.

Like Sorek, they never arrived.

Their bodies were discovered 18 days later on June 30 in a shallow grave near the West Bank city of Halhoul.

Following the kidnapping, the IDF conducted Operation Brother’s Keeper to arrest Hamas leaders in the West Bank. In turn, the Gaza-based terrorist group increasingly launching rockets into Israel. Israel’s military responded by launching airstrikes and sending troops into the coastal enclave.

The kidnapping and murder was the turning point which led to Operation Protective Edge, the seven-week-long Israel-Gaza conflict that summer of 2014. The campaign, during which terrorist groups surprised Israel by using cross-border attack tunnels, left 67 IDF soldiers dead. The bodies of two are still in the hands of Hamas.

As part of the military investigation into Sorek’s killing, the IDF is working on the assumption that he was murdered during an attempted kidnapping by a Hamas cell in the West Bank, and that he was not killed at the site where his body was found.

While the Gaza-based terrorist group along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad haven’t claimed responsibility for his murder, they have praised the attackers.

“We salute our people’s heroic fighters, who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier in the occupation’s army, who was studying at a military college known for graduating extremists that support killing our people and seizing its lands,” Hamas said in a statement.

While the group stopped short of taking responsibility for Sorek’s murder, they said that “the Etzion attack is the most powerful response to the talk of an [Israeli] attempt to annex the occupied West Bank... The attack proves that Israel failed to prevent the resistance.”

Sorek had recently enlisted in the IDF, and had not yet begun basic training. Walking alone late at night, the teenager was likely surprised by the attackers. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he was a victim of opportunity.

Such “heroic” attackers.

Five years after the kidnapping and murder of Shaar, Frenkel and Yifrach, Israeli security forces have arrested hundreds of Hamas operatives in the West Bank and have implemented new technology and procedures to capture Palestinian attackers.

Last month, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that it had foiled a series of attempts by Hamas’ military wing to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank. On Tuesday, the agency cleared for publication the arrests of two Hamas operatives who were operating under the direction of the group’s military wing in the Gaza Strip to carry out attacks against Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets.

Cell members were instructed to establish teams to carry out kidnappings, shootings and stabbing attacks, to purchase weapons and to recruit others to carry out terrorist attacks, the Shin Bet said.

“The military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip continues to invest considerable efforts in establishing terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank with the aim of promoting terrorist attacks in Israel aimed at undermining regional stability,” a senior Shin Bet officer said on Tuesday.

But despite all the cells uncovered by security forces, some will always slip under the radar to carry out deadly attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. And even when this yet unidentified cell is caught by security forces, all the talk by politicians will not prevent the next terrorist cell from taking the life of another Israeli.

As Hamas said in its statement praising Sorek’s murderers: “Our intifada in the West Bank still continues.”


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