Figures by the IDF show a significant increase in the number of violent incidents in the West Bank in the past few months, indicating Israel may be in the midst of a worrisome trend.
At a briefing held at the IDF’s Judea and Samaria headquarters in Beit El on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that Israel is on the cusp of witnessing serious regional developments.
“We know that we are standing before dramatic diplomatic changes, some of which are very good for Israel, but – unfortunately – we have not yet stabilized the situation,” he said. “But from what I saw today, the IDF and security force efforts are significant. They have had a number of significant breakthroughs – in technology, intelligence and other areas – that are leading in the right direction.”
According to figures obtained by The Jerusalem Post
, there has been a surge in the number of attacks in the past few months, primarily rock-throwing incidents, with 346 stone-throwing attacks recorded in September, 375 in October, 420 in November and 344 in December.
In the first 10 days of January, there have been 169 stone-throwing attacks recorded, which at that rate would make over 500 stone-throwing attacks by the end of the month.
According to the army, there were 56 Molotov cocktails thrown at IDF soldiers or civilians in September, 67 in October, 72 in November, 56 in December and 26 in the first 10 days of 2017. There have also been nine shooting attacks between the months of September and November, with another six recorded in December. Nine stabbing attacks were recorded in September, with another five between October and November, and five in December alone.
While stone-throwing incidents are the most common type of attack, according to Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) figures, there has been overall rise in attacks of different types in the past few months, with 455 attacks recorded in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since September.
IDF seizes weapons in West Bank raid
This is a significant increase from the 228 terrorist attacks or attempted attacks the Shin Bet recorded from October 2015 through February 2016.
Not only does the Palestinian Authority not condemn terrorist attacks, but inside Fatah there are those who praise them, Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
The PA did not condemn the attack in Jerusalem that killed four soldiers and injured 15 other victims.
The security forces displayed for Netanyahu some of the more than 450 weapons that were confiscated in Judea and Samaria over the last year. In addition, some 40 weapons workshops were discovered and dismantled.
“In 2015, almost no workshops were discovered,” Netanyahu said. “In 2016, 43 of these were found – equipment was impounded, arrests of those responsible were made, the workshops were closed. There are great efforts on our behalf to prevent the manufacturing and distribution of weaponry.”
Netanyahu said that tremendous efforts were being made against Palestinian terrorism in Judea and Samaria within the realms of intelligence, arrests, raids and operations.
He said that an indication of the successes the security forces have had in crippling the manufacturing of weapons in the territories is that the cost of a weapon in the West Bank is now six times what it was in June, when terrorists shot up a cafe in the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.
Israeli security forces, including the Shin Bet intelligence agency, the IDF and police, have increased their efforts to uncover unofficial workshops producing explosives and other illegal weapons, such as the locally made Carl Gustav gun.
There have also been a number of large-scale terrorist attacks foiled by security forces in the West Bank in the past year, most recently by a Hamas cell planning a series of suicide attacks in Haifa and Jerusalem. According to the Shin Bet, the cell had also planned to carry out shooting attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.
While Israeli security forces foiled over 100 potentially major terrorist plots by organized cells in 2016, the main threat remains the “lone-wolf” attacker.
Over the past year and a half, violent attacks have been perpetrated by a different type of terrorist than previous intifadas. Referred to as “Facebook terrorists” by some IDF officers, the majority of attackers have been young Palestinians influenced by what they see in the media or online who then grab a simple item, like a kitchen knife, and carry out an attack.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who accompanied Netanyahu, slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for directing imams to incite against Israel in the mosques.
“This incitement has direct ramifications on the ground,” he said. “We are following this, and all the efforts to turn the attack [in Jerusalem on Sunday] into an incident to incite.”
Liberman said threats, pressure and international conferences will not impact the situation.
“Instead of sitting and talking with us, the attempt to frighten us and incitement are negative contributions to stability and a diplomatic process,” he said. “I hope we will know how to extract a price from the other side for all this incitement and these efforts to frighten us.”