The slaying of veteran police officer Yehoshua “Shuki” Sofer, 39, in a shooting
attack by a Palestinian terrorist has raised difficult questions about the
future of policing in the West Bank. It has also raised wider questions about
the general stability and security of the West Bank.
Sofer was sitting in
a police van with four other officers making their way from Beersheba to
Jerusalem on what was a routine drive last Monday.
Shortly after 7 a.m.,
a gunman lying in ambush on cliffs above Route 60 in the Hebron Hills opened
fire with an automatic weapon. The bullets riddled the van, shattered the
windows and pierced the bodies of three officers, wounding two and claiming the
life of Shuki Sofer.
Bereaved colleagues described him as a dedicated and
vigilant law enforcement officer, who fell victim to a security threat
remains constant in the West Bank, and which has long been a fact of
officers serving there.
His stunned fiance, Einav Blum, mourned the loss
of her future husband at his funeral.
“Sweetie, all of our wedding guests
have come to accompany you on your final journey. Who can now tell me he
me more than he loved himself? In case I didn’t say it enough, I love
will continue to love you,” she said.
In March 2009, two Judea and
Samaria police officers, Yehezkel Ramazreger and David Rabinovitch, were
dead in the Jordan Valley in a terrorist ambush.
They had stopped to
provide assistance to a Palestinian terrorist who pretended that his car
DESPITE THE possibility that police officers may be turning
into prime targets for terrorists in the West Bank, police in the Judea
Samaria district appear resigned to the fact that any potential revamp
security measures for officers will likely be limited in scope due to
constraints and a complex security reality.
While the police vehicles
currently in service in the West Bank are designed to withstand rock
and firebomb attacks, they are not bulletproof.
Police are considering
the possibility of introducing bulletproof cars and vans, but note that
change could cost millions.
The Israel Police struggles to receive every
penny it gets from state funds and, under current budgetary
creating a fleet of bulletproof police cars appears unrealistic.
the peak of the second intifada, all officers in Judea and Samaria
to wear bulletproof vests and helmets while patrolling the West Bank.
underwent special training to identify the source of gunfire directed at
and to rapidly return fire.
Such strict requirements could soon be
Beyond the question of reforming police regulations, some
settler groups have begun citing the removal of IDF checkpoints in the
as a factor which allowed the shooting to take place.
The military has
reduced the number of checkpoints from 41 to 14 over the past three
“This attack shows that the resolve of terrorists to destroy any
sense of peace and tranquility in these areas remains unabated. This
is a clear indicator to the Israeli authorities that we need to
policies that will best protect our citizens and our security services
all acts of terror,” Naftali Bennett, director-general of the Council of
Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said.
within the IDF deny the claim that checkpoint removals automatically
lead to an
increase in attacks, and point to recent data which show that terrorism
dropped in the West Bank during the period when checkpoints were
According to data compiled by the Shin Bet, May saw a decrease of
terrorist attacks in the West Bank (17) compared to April (25). And
figures represent a significant drop compared to March (62).
shared by the IDF and Palestinian Authority security forces of hunting
active Hamas cells, and the quiet, yet fruitful cooperation between the
been cited by security commentators as a major factor in the relative
At the same time, Hamas and its affiliated organizations may have
made a tactical decision to keep a low profile in the West Bank for the
being. Should the latter scenario be correct, that decision would only
Rogue elements within Fatah which are opposed to PA President
Mahmoud Abbas’s ban on terrorist attacks also continue to pose a
Irrespective of the recent drop in terror attacks, common sense
dictates that a decrease of checkpoints enables terrorist elements to
around with greater ease and exploit the freedom of movement to collect
intelligence on targets, transfer arms and plan attacks.
shooting was claimed by the Fatah Aksa Martyrs Brigade and by an unknown
calling itself the “flotilla martyrs.” The latter “group” released a
saying it would refuse to recognize any cease-fire and vowed to continue
attacks. IDF sources said that the shooting was likely carried out by a
terrorist or a small independent cell operating without the backing of a
Only the coming weeks and months can provide an answer to
the question of whether the shooting was an isolated incident, or the
start of a
new and bloody phase for the West Bank, its residents and security