'Palestinians lacking bombing capacity'

Security services: Absence of suicide attacks shows poor capabilities.

By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN /THE MEDIA LINE
January 25, 2010 12:11
3 minute read.
'Palestinians lacking bombing capacity'

hadera bombing 298. (photo credit: AP)

 
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For the first time in a decade there were no Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis in 2009.

After 36 Israelis were killed in terror attacks in 2008, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) recorded a major decline in the amount of attacks coming from the Palestinian territories.

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Since the end of Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza last January, one Israeli civilian was killed inside Israel by Palestinians and four in the West Bank. Ten Israelis, including five civilians, were killed during the Gaza operation.

Israeli casualties were also down last year, with the Shin Bet recording 234 Israelis wounded by Palestinian attacks, 185 of which took place during Operation Cast Lead. In the previous year, Palestinian attacks wounded 679 Israelis.

Speaking to The Media Line on the condition of anonymity, senior Israeli security sources said that despite the sever blow delivered to the Hamas military infrastructure last January, Hamas is still highly motivated to carry out attacks inside Israel. While Hamas terrorists have been trying to carry out attacks from the West Bank, the sources said, they have been foiled by Israeli security forces and the US-trained Palestinian police.

A senior Israeli security source told The Media Line that Hamas has tried to organize bombing strikes on Israel from the West Bank instead of Gaza so as to avoid Israeli retaliation. These attacks have been thwarted by Israel's security barrier and close ties between the Israeli and Palestinian security apparatuses in the West Bank. By comparison, there were 53 successful suicide bombings launched by Palestinians from the West Bank in 2002.

"The Palestinian police have implemented a sustained iron-fisted fight against terror and the Israeli security forces see this as a very positive movement," said one senior Israeli security official.



US General Keith Dayton has been overseeing the building of the Palestinian police forces in the hope of establishing a security foundation for a would-be Palestinian state.
Israel recently allowed a fifth battalion of Palestinian police to deploy in the West Bank, and security officials refer to 2010 as "a year of force building."

The major decline in attacks against Israelis has occurred in the West Bank, where Israel maintains overall security control. But the US-trained Palestinian police forces have been allowed to exert larger autonomy in major Palestinian population centers under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

Beyond instilling law and order, one of the main efforts of the Palestinian forces has been to crush the Islamist Hamas in towns and villages inside the West Bank. Hundreds of Hamas activists have been arrested and Hamas-linked social charities have been shut or turned into chapters of Fatah, the largest PLO faction.

The number of rocket and mortar attacks also sharply declined, from over two thousand in 2008 to just 566 in 2009 of which 406 were during the January operation. Security sources attribute this to Israel's strong hand reaction. By comparison, 2007 saw over 1,200 rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and in 2006, there were 1,722 rocket strikes in Israel from the coastal strip.

Some 90 percent of attacks were petrol bombs, with the remainder shootings or bombings.

However, security officials expressed some displeasure at what they see as a lack of determined action against terrorists aligned with the PLO's main Fatah faction. A recent fatal shooting of an Israeli settler led to a raid by troops into Nablus, the largest West Bank city, to capture the perpetrators who turned out to be members of Fatah.

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