Statistics released by the IDF Tuesday reveal a dramatic drop in Palestinian terrorism this past year, but the army still hesitates to declare the intifada over.
There were five successful suicide bombings this past year that accounted for nearly half of the 52 Israelis murdered in Palestinian terrorist attacks. Of those killed 43 were civilians. A total of 637 Israelis were injured in the attacks.
The IDF did not release any figures for Palestinian casualties. According to Betselem, the Israeli information center for human rights, 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in the first 11 months of this year. This was significantly lower than in 2004 when 812 were killed.
There was a 55 percent reduction in the number of Israelis killed by terrorist attacks compared to 2004. This was a 44 percent drop last year and a 53 percent drop from 2002 when 453 Israelis were murdered. Last year there were 14 suicide bombings.
"We have proven we can reduce deaths from 450 a year to 50, but remember, we had a year (1999) when only one person was killed by Palestinian terror," said a senior officer. "Our task is to reduce this to a minimum."
While patting themselves on the back for their concentrated war on Palestinian terror through unceasing pursuit, arrest and decimation of various terror cells, a senior officer also credited the decision by Hamas to abide by a ceasefire as well as an improved Palestinian economy.
Hamas carried out one suicide bombing (in Beersheba that killed one person) in 2005. The rest, including last week's bombing in Netanya, were done by the relatively small Islamic Jihad, which the army claims to have severely crippled. Security forces foiled 12 suicide bombings in their final stages this year.
"In 2003 we saw whole classrooms in Nablus lining up to commit suicide bombings. Now this doesn't happen," said a senior officer in a briefing with military reporters.
He explained this by the growing hope in Palestinian society, punishment by the IDF forces and obedience to decisions by organizations to halt attacks.
The year saw a dramatic increase in the number of arrests of alleged fugitives made by the IDF and Shin Bet forces with over 1,000 being detained in the past three months.
"The best way to fight terrorism is on a broad scale; to separate terrorist from the general population and improve their economy," said a senior officer.
According to IDF statistics, unemployment is now about 29 percent, down from 33 percent in 2003, but still way above the 11 percent level before the current years of violence.
The Palestinian economy has also been recovering with $4.3 billion expected gross national product in 2005 compared to $3.6 billion in 2003. In 2000 it had reached $5.1 billion.
The army also marked a 180 percent increase in tourism to Bethlehem compared to last year.
Turning to the south, the IDF said the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip led to a radical 80 percent drop in Kassam rocket and mortar attacks into Israel. In the last quarter of this year Palestinians fired 78 projectiles into Israel compared to 304 in the third quarter.
A senior officer warned that if rocket and mortar fire persists Israel would ratchet up its response, which has been until now confined to artillery barrages of launching sites.
"If there's a need we'll increase operations; for example, we'll notify residents who live in the area used to launch rockets that they must leave within 12 hours, and then we'll carry out massive bombardment of the area," said the officer.