Analysis: Terrorists in distress

The IDF has come pretty close to effectively quashing Palestinian terror.

Hamas, with gun AP 88 (photo credit: )
Hamas, with gun AP 88
(photo credit: )
Arrest raids like the one early Wednesday in Jenin that unfortunately killed Staff.-Sgt. Yonatan Evron, combined with targeted assassinations, have come pretty close to quashing Palestinian terror. On the surface, this statement appears ludicrous in light of last week's suicide bombing in Hadera and the repeated attempts to fire Kassam rockets out of the Gaza Strip into Israel. But security officials stress that the terror organizations are in distress, and disregard rhetoric about whether they will renew their truce or not. Each night, security forces fan out across Judea and Samaria and detain suspected fugitives. Nearly 1,000 have been nabbed and brought in for questioning in the past few months. While many were eventually released, the arrest of key terrorists has decimated their ranks, particularly in Hamas, who are now suffering from a dearth of local leaders in the run-up to Palestinian elections. But most of the pressure has been focused on Islamic Jihad, which has carried out three suicide attacks during the so-called truce (Netanya, Tel Aviv and Hadera). In the past week alone, the Israeli security forces have killed two Islamic Jihad commanders in Tulkarm, another seven in Gaza, and at least five in Kabatiya. The IAF also killed a top Fatah and Hamas terrorist in Gaza. But the crackdown on the terrorist groups in the West Bank has been so vast and consistent that they are resigned to attempting to sneak in from the Gaza Strip not just know-how, but muscle as well. This was evident in the revelation this week that security forces had nabbed three veteran terrorists attempting to sneak out of the Gaza Strip, through the Sinai and to the West Bank through the Negev. These three men, members of the Popular Resistance Committees, were not just experts in manufacturing Kassam rockets and explosives, but at organizing active cells and carrying out attacks against Israelis. Their job was to fill the void and set up a military infrastructure in the northern West Bank. "We are talking of transferring not just brains, but muscle as well," said a senior security official. "They were to be the bridgehead." According to senior security officials, fewer and fewer people are involved in Palestinian terror. Hamas is refraining from openly staging attacks in order to present itself as a political movement in the lead-up to the elections. A poll conducted by the PCPO showed that three out of four Palestinians favor the continuation of the "calm" and indicates that the escalation in terror by the Islamic Jihad and Hamas was not supported. From the point of view of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Palestinian terror cells like the PRC have gone beyond the world-accepted definition of terrorism that generally defines it as a means for a political end. "They lack a political agenda other than causing attacks," a senior Shin Bet official said. "The Popular Resistance Committees are the closest to the ideology of global jihad because they don't have a political agenda other than the destruction of the West." Even if some Palestinian cell does manage to pull off another serious attack, it would be the exception rather than a sign of renewed capability. Israel never trusted the Palestinians and their various cease-fires, lulls and informal truces. And it is highly unlikely at this stage that Israel will accept any kind of agreement to halt its targeted killings so Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas can declare he will start dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. Even IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said that as far as he was concerned it was possible to defeat terrorism through military means. "In contrast to the theory that the army cannot exterminate terrorism, I believe the army can reduce terrorism to the very lowest level," Halutz told The Jerusalem Post last month. While not promising to bring terrorism to an "absolute zero" level, Halutz said the IDF policy has proven that there was a military answer to terrorism, and we are watching this unfold daily.