Intelligence officer: There's an elevated risk of terror attacks from heavily-armed Hebron

Givati officer sheds light on the IDF's daily struggle with arms flow in the West Bank city.

Arms seized by IDF in Hebron 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Arms seized by IDF in Hebron 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Although the IDF is working hard to disrupt the arms flow in areas of Hebron, overall the city remains heavily armed, and there is an elevated risk of armed terror attacks, an intelligence officer from the Givati Brigade’s Rotem Battalion told The Jerusalem Post this week.
Last Friday, the Rotem Battalion, which is stationed in the area, seized a large ammunition cache during the arrest of two Palestinian security suspects in Hebron.
Among the seized weapons were sub-machine guns that the army called “Carl Gustav” firearms, which date back to World War II; handguns; 2,000 rounds of ammunition; gun magazines; and three telescope sniper rifles.
In terms of quantity, the seizure represents a small drop in the bucket, and the Hebron area is filled with arms of all types, the intelligence officer, Lt. “R,” told the Post.
He said the type of submachine guns seized in the raid had been in the West Bank for over a decade, and that Palestinian security agencies had used them before switching to Kalashnikovs and M-16s. The older firearms ended up on the criminal and terrorist black market.
“Other weapons move into Judea and Samaria from Jordan, and from Israel,” he said.
On a daily basis, the Rotem Battalion looks for weapons among Palestinians at checkpoints and in random checks.
“We assume that the people who wander around, or who are arrested by the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and police often have weapons. Three months ago, we found a sub-machine gun under a driver’s chair in a vehicle stopped on Route 60. At night, you can hear shots fired at weddings. There are lots of indications from the intelligence world that this area is heavily armed,” Lt. R said.
The battalion’s aim is to ensure that the weapons are not directed at Israeli civilians who come to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or used to kill soldiers, as occurred in September when a soldier guarding the city’s Jewish quarter was shot dead at long-range by a terrorist who had a sniper rifle.
“There’s a huge quantity of arms in Hebron. They are sold by arms dealers to terror organizations, and to clans. They’re used in terror attacks, and in armed feuds between Palestinian clans,” Lt. R added.
Hebron is a densely populated area, and the number of Israeli security forces in the sector is relatively small compared to the size of the local population, he added. With security forces focused around the Jewish Quarter and Kiryat Arba, he noted, “you can’t get to the whole of Hebron, and I’m not sure this would be the smartest thing to try from a security perspective.”
Lt. R’s job is to act as a direct link between Military Intelligence, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police on one side, and the infantry battalion carrying out daily security missions on the other.
“I work with the intelligence agencies daily,” he said.
“Our techniques have improved recently, and we’re seeing the results, but I can’t go into further details.”
He added, though, that “we feel there are improved capabilities, and more weapons have been captured.” Explosives are also on the IDF’s radar in Hebron, and raids have uncovered suicide bomb vests, pipe bombs, and a variety of improvised explosives.
The latter “are very easy to put together,” Lt. R said, adding that amateur workshops in yards were sufficient for the job.
“They can be used by rioters, who are not treated as Hamas terrorists bent on killing civilians or soldiers, but who can nevertheless throw an explosive device at the IDF,” he said. “These incidents occur a lot. A Molotov cocktail can easily kill a soldier.”
The past two-and-a-half months have seen an unmistakable rise in violent incidents in the Hebron area, and Lt. R said the soldiers of the battalion had been instructed to be on high alert.
“The chances of being attacked with a pipe bomb or a firebomb are higher now. In Hebron, every soldier can be targeted from 2,000 firing positions,” he said. “We’re briefing the soldiers to give them an opportunity to deal better with the risks they face.”