tank drives in jenin 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The defense establishment had warned of a Pesach Seder-night terror attack along the lines of the Park Hotel bombing in 2002. But on Monday afternoon, just as they thought the holiday had passed quietly, security forces were once again jostled awake after terror struck in Tel Aviv.
The attack was carried out, as could be expected, by the northern Samaria-based Islamic Jihad which has made Israel's destruction its primary goal and at the beginning of the week announced it was making "non-stop efforts" to perpetrate suicide bombings. On Monday it succeeded.
While tanks are not present on the narrow streets of Jenin and Nablus, soldiers do operate in these cities on a daily basis, rounding up terror suspects and trying to uproot new terror infrastructures. The IDF even claims it is operating inside the West Bank at the same level it did during Operation Defensive Shield - launched in response to the Park Hotel bombing.
But despite some recent success in curbing terror, Monday's attack proves what defense officials have been saying all along the current West Bank campaign: Despite a daily IDF presence, there is no way to hermetically seal off the territories. The Palestinians took particular pride in Monday's attack claiming that despite the IDF presence in Jenin throughout the past week, the bomber still succeeded in getting out of the city, breaking the closure and infiltrating Israel.
While details of the bomber's path into Israel have yet to be released, security officials said it was safe to assume he passed through one of the West Bank crossings and was probably smuggled in by an Israeli who drives Palestinians into Israel for a living. The IDF is no stranger to this infiltration tactic which has been used repeatedly in the past. But despite tough talk from the likes of Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra who has on more than one occasion called Israelis who assist Palestinians in entering Israel "despicable villains," not much has been done to curb the phenomenon and secure the crossings.
Another weak point for Israel is the constant flow of money to Palestinian terror groups. Terror, a high-ranking member of the IDF General Staff said last week, is all about money and when there is a free flow of funds, there are attacks. Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, officials said, are sending millions of dollars to the terror groups on a monthly basis and while there is some success in stopping the flow, it is limited.
So while troops did roll into Nablus moments after Monday's attack, the army knows that a continuation of its daily operations there might just not be enough to stop the next bomber and there is already talk within the IDF General Staff of launching an extensive Defensive Shield-like operation throughout the West Bank. The Central Command has already begun sending infantry battalions to urban warfare centers to sharpen soldier's skills for the long and tedious operations that can be expected under such a campaign.
The army will also likely consider targeting the the Palestinian Authority. While PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing, the new Hamas leadership did the opposite and justified the attack, claiming it was a legitimate response to Israeli aggression.
The IDF could use the attack to justify action against the Hamas-run government, which Israel has repeatedly said is no different than a gang of terrorists.
Until now, the IDF operation in northern Samaria has been directed at specific targets based on precise intelligence - something like a military surgical team.
Troops receive intelligence from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), enter the cities, raid homes and arrest suspects. But wide-range and extensive operations that include curfews on cities, tight closures and massive arrests are still on hold.
This attack, however, could draw such an operation closer. Just last week, IDF Planning Directorate chief Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Harel told The Jerusalem Post that once the army felt its current operation was no longer providing the needed results, Israel would escalate its response. We may have reached that point.