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The Shin Bet's statistics on terror attacks confirm the public perception that terrorist activity in 2005 dropped considerably compared to the previous four and a half years. The main reason for the sharp decline is the truce in the territories, the security service said yesterday.

Terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 45 Israelis last year, compared to 117 in 2004, marking a 60 percent reduction.

This is the third year in a row in which the number of terrorist acts has been reduced sharply. At the height of the intifada, in 2002, 450 Israelis were killed by terrorists. An equal number of Israelis were killed in traffic accidents in 2005. In other words, the number of terror fatalities in 2005 is less than one-tenth of the number of traffic accident fatalities.

The Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces attribute the reduction mainly to the improvement in their joint capability to foil terrorist attacks and to act against terrorist organizations.

The security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it. The fence does make it harder for them, but the flawed inspection procedures at its checkpoints, the gaps and uncompleted sections enable suicide bombers to enter Israel.

Five suicide bombings took place this year - two in Netanya, one in Hadera, one in Tel Aviv and one, with no fatalities, in Be'er Sheva - compared to only two in 2004. The number of fatalities resulting from these attacks has risen a little, from 14 to 21.

But the main reason for the reduction in terrorist acts over the past year is the truce in the territories, as partial as it may be. The fact that Hamas, in general, stopped engaging in terror activities changed the picture. The Islamic Jihad network in the West Bank upgraded its capability and was responsible for the murder of 23 Israelis in 2005, but during that time, Hamas - the leading terror orgnanization in recent years - has scaled back its engagement in terror. Its focus on the political arena and the preparations for the Palestinian parliamentary elections have limited its active involvement in terror to a large extent.

The Shin Bet holds Hamas directly responsible for only one fatal attack in 2005 - the murder of Sasson Nuriel, who was kidnapped from Mishor Adumim and taken to Ramallah, where he was executed by a local Hamas cell.

The reduced number of attacks is also related to the disengagement and the army's withdrawal from friction points in the Gaza Strip. In the past year there have been fewer explosive charges (199 compared to 592), fewer mortar shells (848 compared to 1,231) and fewer shooting incidents (1,133 copared to 1,621). Only the number of Qassam rockets fired at Israel has increased - 377 Qassam-launching incidents occurred (an event can include several rockets launched simultaneously) compared to 309 in the previous year.