Amid wave of Palestinian terror, IDF continues to crack down

Outgoing deputy commander of Menashe Regional Brigade warns would-be terrorists that IDF can bring the West Bank economy 20 years back if need be.

 Outgoing deputy commander of Menashe Regional Brigade Lt.-Col. Alon Hanuni. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Outgoing deputy commander of Menashe Regional Brigade Lt.-Col. Alon Hanuni.

More than a month after the first deadly attack in the current wave of violence, the IDF is continuing to crack down on West Bank Palestinian terrorism in an effort to regain calm in the region.

“There is not one spot in the West Bank where the IDF doesn’t operate,” Menashe Regional Brigade Deputy Cmdr. Lt.-Col. Alon Hanuni told The Jerusalem Post from his office in a military base outside Ramallah during what seemed to be a lull in deadly attacks against Israeli citizens. The last attack in which multiple Israelis were killed was on April 7 in Tel Aviv, when three civilians were shot dead.

However, two days after this interview, security guard Golev Vyacheslav, 23, was killed at the Western entrance to Ariel, a city in Samaria, when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire and then stabbed him.

He was the 15th Israeli to be killed since March 22.

Hanuni has spent several years in various posts in the West Bank, the last two as deputy commander.

 Outgoing deputy commander of Menashe Regional Brigade Lt.-Col. Alon Hanuni. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) Outgoing deputy commander of Menashe Regional Brigade Lt.-Col. Alon Hanuni. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

It has been a “complicated two years,” he said, adding that he oversaw the area during last May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, the escape of the security prisoners from Gilboa Prison and now Operation Break the Wave.

“What we saw in May last year was different because it wasn’t only a clear Palestinian enemy; we also dealt with violence by Arab-Israelis,” Hanuni said. “And dealing with that is different because you aren’t only dealing with the Palestinian facing you; it’s also [the one] behind you. On the way to our destination, we met our enemy, and it was challenging.”

With Operation Guardian of the Walls going on in Gaza at the same time as rioting in Israeli cities, Hanuni and his troops had to contend daily with some of the worst violence in the region in years.

Dozens of Palestinians, Israeli civilians and soldiers were wounded in the riots.

Four months after May’s 11-day conflict, Hanuni and his forces “woke up one morning to hear that security prisoners escaped and were likely heading to Jenin,” he said. “It was supposed to be a quiet period before the holidays. But it turned out to be the opposite, and it was one of the busiest months full of operational activity.”

The manhunt for the escapees lasted for close to two weeks. Soldiers operated in Jenin, where the last two escapees were eventually found and captured.

“The threats are very complicated in Jenin,” Hanuni said. “Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are very active there, and it’s better for the IDF not to enter.”

Nevertheless, due to the high level of violence in the Jenin refugee camp, the Palestinian security forces prefer the IDF to operate there, he said.

And the IDF has been operating there on a regular basis since September because of the recent spate of deadly attacks. Two of the terrorists who killed Israelis in Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv were from the Jenin area. They illegally entered Israel through the security fence in the Seam Line area.

ACCORDING TO some estimates, as many as 30,000 Palestinians enter Israel illegally every day by crossing through holes in the fence.

“We knew in 2019 that the situation [along the fence] would explode,” Hanuni said. “The situation of the fence was just awful, and Palestinians just casually walked and drove through.”

With the security fence in such awful condition, “we knew that the attacks in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak would happen,” he said, and it was just a matter of time.

“It’s like waves in the West Bank,” Hanuni said. “All the time there are peaks and then quiet. And there’s always a trigger, with Jerusalem being the main one. This wave will take a little longer than others since we need to destroy the terrorist infrastructure, fix the security fence and more.”

To bring the current wave of violence to an end without further attacks, the security establishment – the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police – has been focusing on the northern West Bank and the Palestinian cities of Jenin, Nablus, Hebron and Tulkarm and their surrounding villages.

“We enter Jenin at all times, whenever we need to,” Hanuni said. “We will enter at every point, at any moment, at any hour, and they know that. Palestinian terrorists don’t feel safe in their home base anymore” due to the near-nightly arrest raids targeting Palestinians suspected of being involved in terrorist activity.

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been detained by security forces since the beginning of the year, including at least 250 since Operation Break the Wave began and 50 in Hanuni’s area.

By comparison, 2,288 Palestinians were detained in 2021 and 2,277 in 2020.

The sharp increase in detentions this year comes as the IDF has ordered forces to detain any Palestinian involved in terrorism, including those involved in smuggling weapons. Security forces have confiscated about 130 different kinds of weapons since the beginning of the year, including more than 30 since the end of March.

According to Hanuni, while weapons trafficking and smuggling have given rise to a huge amount of illegal weapons on the West Bank, “our intelligence is strong enough to prevent strategic weapons from entering the area.”

If there are any strategic weapons in the hands of terrorists in the West Bank, such as anti-tank guided missiles or antiaircraft weaponry, Hanuni does not think they are in any shape to be used against soldiers.

In a warning to Palestinians who might be considering a terrorist attack, Hanuni said the IDF can crack down even further if necessary.

“They are only feeling a small bit of what we can do,” he said. “We can set them back 20 years if we want. We aren’t there yet, but we are close. It all depends on them.”

“They [can] influence their future, and they could be in a complicated place in terms of their lifestyle,” Hanuni said. “I am talking about the refugee camps. And if the enemy continues with what he is doing, they will suffer a lot more than they are suffering now. And they are not suffering. They are living comfortably. It’s all in their hands.”