Attacks up, fatalities down in the West Bank

Violent attacks in the West Bank have jumped significantly over the past year but the number of deaths from terror attacks is the lowest in a decade.

 Palestinian youth clash with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 10, 2021 (photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)
Palestinian youth clash with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 10, 2021
(photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)

Violent attacks in the West Bank have jumped significantly over the past year, while the number of deaths from terrorist attacks is the lowest in a decade.

According to data released by the military, there have been 5,532 incidents of rocks being thrown over the past year, 1,022 Molotov cocktails, 61 shooting attacks, and 18 stabbing attacks.

Despite the high number of attacks, only two Israelis were killed in 2021 in the West Bank: 19-year-old student Yehuda Guetta on May 5, and 25-year-old Yehuda Dimentman on December 16.

Both Guetta and Dimentman were killed in shooting attacks. In the past seven years, 21 Israelis were killed in 2014, 28 in 2015, 17 in 2016, 20 in 2017, 11 in 2018, five in 2019, and one Israeli was killed in 2020. Those numbers do not include soldiers or civilians killed in attacks from the Gaza Strip.

In the past month, about 10 major attacks have occurred along with hundreds of smaller ones. The attacks carried out by lone wolves or members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas included shooting attacks, vehicular ramming attacks, stone-throwing and stabbing attacks.

 Family and friends attend the funeral of Yehuda Dimentman at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem on December 17, 2021, Dimentman died in last night shooting attack near Homesh. (credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90) Family and friends attend the funeral of Yehuda Dimentman at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem on December 17, 2021, Dimentman died in last night shooting attack near Homesh. (credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

Even though the figures show a worrisome trend of violence in the West Bank, the IDF views only two civilians having been killed as a significant success in its policy of thwarting attacks through the use of advanced intelligence.

In an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks, the IDF has continued to carry out nightly raids in Palestinian villages across the West Bank. Over the past year, the military has confiscated NIS 11,386,270 in funds used for terrorism, 397 guns, and destroyed nine weapons manufacturing plants. Some 2,288 Palestinians were also arrested in 2021, a slight increase from last year when 2,277 Palestinians were arrested, and a drop from 3,627 arrests made in 2017.

Despite the Guardian of the Walls war in May and the violence that broke out across the country – including 29 serious attacks in the West Bank during the 11 days of fighting – the IDF views the overall strategic-security situation as having improved compared with previous years.

Data released by the IDF show that this has been the longest and most significant period of operational quiet in relation to the four most recent operations in the Gaza Strip.

In the six months following the operation, only five long-range rockets were fired from the Hamas-run coastal enclave toward Israel. In comparison, 22 rockets were fired following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, 76 were fired following Pillar of Defense in 2012, and 196 rockets were fired following Cast Lead in 2009.

The military says the quiet along its southern front is a mix of Israel’s civilian policy toward Gaza and Egyptian mediation with Hamas.

Cairo is one of the strongest negotiators with Hamas in the region, and has made a strategic decision to become more public regarding its diplomatic and even military work with Israel. Meetings between the two militaries are frequent, and senior Israeli officers including from the IDF’s General Staff have made recent public visits to their counterparts in Egypt.

The IDF also believes that while there are enough internal reasons to launch attacks from the Strip, the change in policy regarding retaliation from incendiary balloons and rockets has also deterred terrorist groups in the Strip from launching additional attacks on Israel.

In addition to stronger retaliatory strikes against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets, Israel has also increased the number of permits given to Gazans to work in Israel, with 10,000 workers and merchants leaving the Strip on a daily basis to make a living in Israel.

The Israeli military has also completed building its 65-kilometer upgraded barrier with the Strip, three years and over a dozen rounds of violent conflict after work began.

The fence includes an underground barrier that stretches along the entire border with Gaza along with a maritime border wall. It has a system of advanced sensor and monitoring devices to detect tunnels, and is combined with a six-meter-high above-ground fence similar to the one that runs along the Israeli-Egyptian border.

According to the Defense Ministry, more than 1,200 people from around the world worked on the project at dozens of points along the border; six concrete plants were established there; 330,000 trucks poured three million cubic meters of concrete for the project; and another 140,000 tons of iron and steel were used in the construction of the barrier.

The military proposed building the barrier in order to remove the threat of cross-border attack tunnels, and stop terrorists in Gaza intent on carrying out attacks from infiltrating into southern Israel. Hamas had made extensive use of its offensive tunnel network during Operation Protective Edge.

The military says that due in part to the technology of the fence, the IDF was able to thwart many surprise attacks planned by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including cross-border attacks using tunnels during the war in May.