The IDF goes on the offensive in fight against terror

MILITARY AFFAIRS: What security forces are doing to stem the current wave of attacks.

 IDF SOLDIERS RUN down a street in Jenin during a raid last week. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
IDF SOLDIERS RUN down a street in Jenin during a raid last week.

Israeli security forces are on high alert ahead of Passover and are working day and night to prevent more deadly attacks.

With four attacks killing 14 people in less than a month, the IDF has been on the offensive and defensive, carrying out an increasing number of raids and deploying thousands of troops to the Seam Line.

There have been dozens of warnings of terrorist attacks being planned ahead of the Passover holiday. And with memories of the Park Hotel suicide bombing on Seder night 20 years ago in Netanya, which killed 29 people and wounded 140 more, the defense establishment is doing everything in its power to prevent another such attack.

Dr. Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center and senior analyst at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya, told The Jerusalem Post that the current wave of terrorism is very similar to the one that plagued Israel seven years ago.

Israel is facing the same threat of the lone wolf who has been incited on social media and other channels to carry out attacks. But while the “stabbing intifada” of 2015-2016 was carried out by youth who mainly stabbed Israeli security forces and civilians, this time it’s men in their late 20s and early 30s who are using automatic weapons and handguns.

IDF soldiers conducting arrests in the West Bank as part of Operation Break the Wave, April 12, 2022 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)IDF soldiers conducting arrests in the West Bank as part of Operation Break the Wave, April 12, 2022 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

“We are still facing the same threat because we are not facing military wings of Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. But, on the other hand, it’s a very different terror wave because those who committed the terror attacks are not using knives but pistols and guns,” he said.

“What is also different are the Israeli-Arab citizens who are carrying out attacks. The terror attacks that were carried out by Israeli-Arabs were the vanguard of this wave. They are the ones who began this wave.”

According to Milshtein, there is no clear reason for this wave of terrorism, since both Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip are relatively calm.

“The only two reasons I can think of are the dramatic incitement promoted by Hamas, which is very effective on the youth, and the model of imitation” following the deadly Beersheba attack.

In order to bring this wave to an end without further attacks, the security establishment – IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police – is focusing its sights on the northern West Bank and the Palestinian cities of Jenin, Nablus, Hebron and Tulkarm and their surrounding villages.

The Jenin district, Milshtein said, “has been a symbol of the struggle against Israel. It’s always been a center of terror and chaos.”

But, according to him, in the last year there have been two main points that have made the situation much more difficult: the mix of terrorist groups inside Jenin which “work as a coalition of terror” committed to the idea of resistance, and the Palestinian Authority’s failure to take control.

“The combination of the growing powers of terror groups and the PA’s ineffectiveness in Jenin has led it to becoming the capital of terror and chaos in the West Bank,” he said.

ALREADY BEFORE the violence, Israeli security forces were cracking down on Palestinians suspected of being involved in terrorism, arresting more than 1,100 since the beginning of the year, Walla News reported.

According to the report, 300 Palestinians were arrested in the past month alone.

In comparison, last year a total of 2,288 Palestinians were arrested, already a small increase from the 2,277 Palestinians arrested in 2020.

The sharp increase in arrests comes as the IDF has ordered forces to arrest any Palestinian involved in terrorism.

The military has reinforced troops in the West Bank with 16 combat battalions, including special forces from commando units. Officers from the Shin Bet are working alongside troops from Military Intelligence Unit 8200 to scan social networks and other sources in order to identify potential attackers and stop them ahead of time.

Combat intelligence units have also focused their attention on the volatile arena.

In an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks, the IDF continues to carry out raids in Palestinian villages across the northern West Bank.

In 2021, the military confiscated over NIS 11 million in funds for terrorism, 397 guns, and destroyed nine weapons manufacturing plants.

Now the IDF is not going only for the guns, but also arresting arms dealers and those involved in the sale of weapons. Dozens of weapons have been confiscated by troops during the raids in the past few weeks.

The huge increase in troops allows the military to carry out offensive operations in the West Bank and deploy troops along the security barrier in order to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel through holes in the barrier.

Troops have been given clear instructions to prevent any and all Palestinians from illegally crossing into Israel, and have been ordered to, if necessary, fire at the lower bodies of those who attempt to cross. On Wednesday leaflets were also dropped in Jenin warning that anyone who approaches the barrier “puts his life in immediate danger.”

Other than the very likely possibility of a full closure of the West Bank during Passover and Independence Day, as is enforced every year, the defense establishment is working in several ways to break the current wave of violence that has gripped the streets of Israel.

With all of the deadly attacks taking place in large cities, the IDF has reinforced the Israel Police with some 1,000 troops from elite units in training. Those elite units include Sayeret Golani, Shaldag, and commando units such as Duvdevan and Egoz. The presence of these forces will be felt in locations such as synagogues, shopping centers and other places where large crowds gather.

In addition, the security cabinet this week approved a NIS 360m. plan to reinforce and fix the security barrier, which runs along parts of the Green Line and has been in shambles for years.

On Tuesday, the military announced an even further reinforcement of troops, sending two battalions and two companies of infantry and Combat Engineering soldiers to the West Bank, to remain there until the 40-kilometer barrier has been fixed.

While the IDF has canceled furloughs for combat troops in the West Bank until Israel’s Independence Day in early May, it is likely that the military’s Break the Wave operation will continue even past that.

And if that turns out to be the case, the IDF will have no choice but to call up reserve troops.

Calling up reserve troops to serve in an operation in the West Bank might stir up memories of Operation Defensive Shield, which was launched following the Park Hotel bombing 20 years ago.

“Israel, after Ramadan, must consider a broad operation that is focused on Jenin,” Milshtein said.

“We want to avoid the spread of the Jenin phenomenon to the rest of the West Bank. We must consider an operation that will also focus on PIJ, which has its base in the northern West Bank, mainly Jenin.”

Until then, Israel will act forcefully in order to stop terrorism, while making sure that its offensive operations do not further encourage violence and cause a full-blown explosion on the Palestinian street. Because if that happens, violence will not be limited to the West Bank.