After a spike in violence following US President Donald Trump’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the West Bank has stabilized, but Gaza remains on edge, according to a Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report.
The report summarizes a wide range of Palestinian terrorism trends for 2017, while also making predictions for 2018.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement have indirectly supported some of the wave of violence against Israelis, calling it “popular resistance” – though not going as far as former PA leader Yasser Arafat who provided direct support for attacks, the researchers write.
Broadly speaking, the report notes that there were fewer Palestinian serious violent incidents in 2017 than in 2016, but that a similar number of Israelis were killed.
Whereas in 2016 there were 134 serious violent incidents, in 2017 there were only 82 serious violent incidents.
Nevertheless, 18 Israelis were killed in 2017 compared to 17 in 2016.
Broken down by region, there were 20 serious violent attacks in the Jerusalem region, 15 near Ramallah, 14 in the Hebron region, 10 in Samaria and eight in the Etzion Bloc.
Most attackers were between the ages of 14 and 20 and had a variety of personal, emotional and other problems, but no prior record of violence against Israel. Eighty-six percent of the attackers were male.
Most were Palestinians, which is the focus of the report, but there was also a handful of Israeli-Arabs attackers and one Jordanian attacker.
The report analyses major tipping points in terrorism trends in 2017.
It notes a spike in attacks relating to April’s Palestinian prisoners hunger strike
, July’s Temple Mount terrorist attack
and fallout relating to added Israeli security measures at the entrances to the Mount, and the US’s Jerusalem recognition in December.
Regarding the hunger strike and the Temple Mount riots, the Meir Amit Center said that the spikes in violence were temporary and evaporated eventually because of the strength of Israeli security forces and the lack of motivation from Fatah for a major altercation.
The report made the same statement about violence from the West Bank surrounding Trump’s declaration simmering down eventually.
At the same time, the report cites a January 14, 2018, speech by Abbas to the Fatah leadership in which he endorsed continued “popular resistance,” as an example of the kinds of continued actions throughout 2017 that gave moral support to violence.
The center cited the PA paying stipends to “martyrs,” how many Palestinians view terrorists who attack Israelis, naming locations after “martyrs,” undertaking visits meant to honor hospitalized martyrs and their families and funerals and giving speeches honoring them as helping to create an atmosphere for violence.
As opposed to Arafat, the center said that Abbas does not give direct support to violence, but that giving indirect support is seen as a way to maintain attention from Israel and the wider world.
Further, the center said that following the US Jerusalem recognition, rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip clearly increased.
Thirty-one rockets were fired at Israel in 2017 – 22 from Gaza and nine from Sinai. In contrast, 15 rockets were fired at Israel in 2016.
Moreover, the center said that 11 rockets were fired at Israel in December, the month when Trump made his announcement, compared to an average of between zero and two rockets per month in the preceding period.
The researchers wrote that Hamas is under extreme pressure to permit more rocket attacks because of the dire economic situation in Gaza, embarrassment from Israeli successes in blowing up its tunnels, and other terrorist groups pressing for attacking Israel more aggressively.
The report said that overall Hamas has still restrained itself and these groups, not wanting to get into a broader fight with Israel and as part of efforts to garner favor with Egypt and the PA in national unity negotiations.
However, the center expressed concern that Hamas was allowing more attacks on Israel to go forward and that this trend did not seem to be stopping as quickly as in the West Bank. Part of this could be attributed to the likely failure of national unity negotiations with the PA despite initial progress.
Overall, the report forecasted that 2018 would not see an all-out broader conflict on either the West Bank or the Gaza front, with Israeli deterrence still holding. However, it also warned that the situation could quickly deteriorate into war if the Gaza economic situation worsened.
Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Center has an unusual number of members and contacts with current and former top Israeli intelligence officials.