The Palestinian terrorism of 2015 looks very different from the kind that Israel suffered during the first years of the Second Intifada. The weapons are improvised, there are no “wanted men” whom Israel is seeking for orchestrating the attacks; indeed, there is often no organizational support. But the effort to perpetrate terror attacks against Israeli targets is intensifying.
According to the Shin Bet’s own statistics, Israeli security forces have prevented 17 suicide attacks so far this year — that’s 17 in just seven months. This figure does not include attacks prevented by the Palestinian Authority, which has dismantled several cells that planned such attacks.
Five of the 17 attacks thwarted by Israel were planned by members of Hamas, five were planned by other groups, and the remaining seven were not associated with any organization. In other words, terror cells are now frequently being established without affiliation to a Palestinian group, but rather on the basis of introductions between friends, fellow university students and/or connections on social networks. Such cells are exceptionally hard for the security services to penetrate.
This is supposedly a more “amateur” type of terrorism. But so far this year, too, Israel prevented eight kidnappings planned by these so-called amateurs — and, again, this figure does not include kidnappings prevented by the Palestinian Authority. Of those eight, four were planned by members of Hamas and the rest by Islamic Jihad and other groups.
In all, over the first seven months of 2015, Israel’s defense and security establishment prevented 111 attempted terror attacks, including shooting attacks and bombings along with the kidnappings and suicide attacks.
Hamas is the prime offender, the Shin Bet figures show, responsible for more than half of those attempts (62, to be precise, or 55 percent). But even Hamas is not using the same methods as it employed between 2000 and 2006 in the West Bank. Its members operate mostly on a local basis — Hamas activists who have known each other since childhood, are neighbors in a Palestinian city or come from the same village. One such cell is known to have operated in Beit Lakiya, not from from Modi’in, without any external help and with no funding from Gaza or abroad.
These cells often rely on improvisation for their choice of weaponry and their plans for using it. Surprisingly, the Kalashnikov is no longer in fashion; its place has been taken by weapons manufactured locally. These include the “Carlo,” named for the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, whose Palestinian version is produced in the West Bank and has been used by quite a few terrorists. A “Carlo” costs only about 700 Jordanian dinars (NIS 3,700; almost $1,000). A Kalashnikov or M-16 costs many times more.
The terrorists themselves are also different. In the West Bank, being a wanted terrorist is no longer “in.” Today’s terrorists have no desire for an on-the-run lifestyle; they want to commit the attack and get away with it — and to go back to their jobs, their regular lives.
There are also groups that are better organized, via regional West Bank hierarchies. But such groups are less dangerous because they are more vulnerable to the intelligence efforts both of the Shin Bet and of the Palestinian Authority. They are reminiscent of “classic Hamas” terror hierarchies, which mobilized support via an array of social services, known as Dawa, from which they learned to recruit terrorists. They have an impressive presence, for instance, in Hamas’s student unions, notably including those at An-Najah University in Nablus and in Bir Zeit north of Ramallah. Hamas fares extraordinarily well in the student union elections at these universities because of its widespread social activity for the students.