A suspect in the killing of Col. (ret.) Seraiah Ofer, being arrested, October 2013.
A suspect in the killing of Col. (ret.) Seraiah Ofer, being arrested, October 2013. Photo by Gil Eliahu
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The number of Israelis killed or wounded in terror incidents originating in the West Bank rose sharply in 2013, according to figures from the Shin Bet security service.

Five Israelis were killed and 44 were wounded last year, compared with no fatalities and 40 wounded in 2012. The numbers - which include those wounded by firebombs and stones in moderate condition or worse, as well as injuries of all kinds from shootings - are still well below those at the height of the second intifada more than a decade ago. The figures do not include those lightly wounded by firebombs and rock-throwing.

This year, it is thought that if the peace talks with the Palestinians fail, attacks could increase.

Last year was marked by incidents carried out by lone attackers or a pair of attackers, and some attacks were ascribed to a combination of criminal and nationalist motives. Still, the Shin Bet identified a new jihadist group linked to Al-Qaida toward the end of the year.

The catalysts for violence last year were friction between Palestinians and Israelis (both the security forces and settlers,) frustration at the lack of progress toward a peace deal, the West Bank’s dire economy, and the weakening of the security services’ control of West Bank refugee camps.

In September, incidents began to proliferate in the West Bank, though the number of attacks in East Jerusalem declined due to the Shin Bet and police’s efforts.

In four of the five fatalities, the Shin Bet solved the case and the suspects were arrested and tried. The fifth case – the September killing of Givati Brigade soldier Gal Kobi in Hebron – remains unsolved.

Also last year, Hamas made a major effort to mount attacks from the West Bank against Israelis; 84 such attempts were foiled, the Shin Bet said.

To increase its number of attacks in the West Bank, Hamas set up a command center in Gaza, staffed largely by former prisoners released in the 2011 deal to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

In December, an attack failed when an Israeli noticed a bomb in a Bat Yam bus. An Islamic Jihad cell from Bethlehem was behind this attempt, and its members – including a Palestinian policeman – were arrested.

In a relatively rare incident last year, the Shin Bet uncovered a West Bank terror operation linked to world jihad groups and inspired by Al-Qaida. In November, three members of this cell were killed in an encounter with the Shin Bet and counterterrorism forces. Another 20 were arrested, some by Israel and some by the Palestinian Authority.

According to the Shin Bet, this network planned a series of attacks against Israeli targets, including a car bombing and abductions, and also intended to strike at PA figures in the West Bank.

The Israelis say the PA security forces are working to foil attacks by arresting militants and blocking the transfer of funds to terror groups, chiefly Hamas, but aren’t working to uproot the broader terror infrastructure. Although nearly 1,000 Hamas militants were arrested by the PA in 2013, not one was brought to trial.