Palestinians released in prisoner exchanges "always returned to terrorism," a high-ranking officer in Central Command warned Sunday, ahead of a planned swap for kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank are "infected" with terrorist elements, he added. The officer said there had been a major increase in Palestinian terrorist activity in the West Bank in 2006, and warned of an outbreak of a new intifada.
IDF thwarts terror attack in Nablus
He told reporters that three senior Islamic Jihad officials, who were released in the 2003 swap with Hizbullah for kidnapped businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers, were currently involved in the group's buildup in Nablus. The three - Muataz Halil, Hasin Garda'at and Muza'at Saba - were also helping to build up the terrorist infrastructure in the Hebron area, the officer said.
"This is what happens when terrorists are released in such deals," he said, "they immediately return to terrorist activity."
The officer said since the tahadiyeh (truce) went into effect in the West Bank following the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, the Palestinians had been strengthening themselves militarily in preparation for another round of violence.
There were 593 shooting attacks in 2006, the officer said, adding that there were 400 roadside bombs in 2006, up from 149 in 2005. Despite an increase in the number of attacks, he said, 2006 was a successful year for the IDF in thwarting terrorist attacks and preventing terrorist infiltrations.
The officer said 187 suicide attacks had been thwarted over the past year, including one attempt Sunday morning when six Palestinians were arrested in Nablus with two explosives belts.
Palestinians in the West Bank carried out two attacks that killed 11 civilians in 2006. In 2005, 21 people were killed in five attacks; in 2004, 42 people were killed in seven attacks; in 2003, 137 people were killed in 18 attacks; and in 2002, 234 people were killed in 62 attacks, he said.
"We succeeded in lowering the level of terrorism inside Palestinian population centers," the officer said. "This was made possible by our continued presence and the nonstop operations that we carry out inside the cities, such as the one last Thursday in Ramallah."
In 2006, the officer said, the IDF arrested 4,110 terrorist suspects, compared to 3,062 in 2005 and 3,737 in 2004.
The officer said the official PA security branches in the West Bank were infected with terrorists.
"There is no such thing as an official Palestinian security branch that is not made up of terrorists," he said. "They find sanctuary in official Palestinian Authority facilities. This is a problem."
The officer said the IDF had information about the presence of RPG antitank missiles inside Nablus, Ramallah and Kalkilya. He said there had been several attempts to manufacture and fire Kassam rockets from the Jenin and Tulkarm areas, but they had been thwarted by the IDF.