Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman and MK Avi Dichter, October 6, 2018.
(photo credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV)
The Shin Bet (Israel security agency) thwarted 480 Palestinian terror attacks during the last year, a major factor in maintaining a fragile calm between Israel and the Palestinians, the agency’s director Nadav Argaman said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Argaman also referred to 590 potential lone-wolf attacks that the Shin Bet had prevented, and the arrest of 219 Hamas cells in the West Bank, though it remains unclear how many Palestinians were in each cell and how senior the operatives were.
“The situation in the Palestinian arena has been very unstable this past year,” he said. “In Gaza, on the one hand, we are on the verge of a conflict, and on the other hand we are making efforts to stabilize the humanitarian situation. In Judea and Samaria, the situation is very complex. At a superficial level, there is relative calm, but it is deceptive. The ground is very combustible.”
Potential lone-wolf attacks refer to persons arrested or warned by the Shin Bet before they commit attacks.
In finding potential lone wolves, the Shin Bet uses a variety of methods: monitoring Palestinians’ social media accounts, use of informants and a complex
algorithm that takes into account potential suspects’ family connections to known terrorists and psychological profiling.
There is an ongoing debate about whether this kind of predictive intelligence is too speculative, but it has been credited by many with ending the “Knife Intifada” of 2015-2016.
Argaman said Hamas offices in Gaza and Turkey have attempted to orchestrate attacks in the West Bank. He also mentioned similar efforts from Lebanon.
These foiled attempts are in addition to the ongoing Gaza border conflict and periodic rocket fire.
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Currently, there are reports that Israel and Hamas have reached a possible ceasefire deal
, but Argaman warned the Knesset that the situation remains precarious.
Reportedly, Argaman has served as the lead liaison between the government and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas because of the mistrust between Abbas and the PA, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Recently, the PLO even voted to discontinue cooperation between its security forces and the Shin Bet and IDF, but Abbas has not yet approved the vote. Observers believe Abbas will ultimately not approve the move, as Israel’s help also suppresses Hamas in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet chief also told the Knesset that his agency had prevented a number of cyberattacks.
In May, The Jerusalem Post published an exclusive report regarding an article by Argaman written in an intelligence journal. He wrote that while the Shin Bet was using big data in powerful ways to fight terrorism, “the world of big data and cyber confronts the intelligence community with more complex challenges than ever before. Looking forward, our enemies are not stagnant, as the world of big data develops and broadens, and technology is becoming more advanced every minute.”
In December, Argaman told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the agency had thwarted over 400 terrorist attacks in 2017, including 13 suicide attacks and eight kidnappings, as well as 1,100 potential lone-wolf attacks.
He further noted at that time that in 2017, 54 attacks were successfully carried out, in comparison with 108 successful attacks in 2016.
In 2016, the Shin Bet stopped 344 major attacks, meaning the total number of thwarted attacks seems to have increased somewhat over the last three years.
It was unclear if the same definition has been used to categorize what is a major attack.
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