Attempted Terror Attacks in West Bank on the Rise, Say Israeli Security Officials

Senior IDF officers assert Hamas is trying to shift its activity from Gaza to the West Bank, and claim ongoing manhunt of attacker who killed two Israelis in October and remains at large 'has effect on the grassroots'

Israeli security forces and emergency personnel work at the scene of what an initial report from the Israeli army said was a shooting attack, near the Israeli settlement of Ofra, in the occupied West Bank December 9, 2018.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

Palestinians' will to commit terror attacks in the West Bank is on the rise, say senior Israeli security officials. Since September, there have been some 10 terror attacks or attempted attacks in the West Bank, compared with seven shooting incidents on roads around Ramallah and Jerusalem during the first half of 2018.

Seven people, including a 21-year-old woman in her seventh month of pregnancy, were wounded on Sunday in the latest drive-by shooting attack, near the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

Doctors at the hospital delivered her baby boy, whose condition deteriorated Sunday overnight and who is now in serious condition. The woman's husband, who was also wounded in the attack, was said to be in stable condition.

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A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces Central Command told Haaretz that Hamas has plotted more attacks than before, and cautioned that the organization's plans "are more complex than lone-wolf attacks."

Security forces at the scene of the attack, West Bank, October 7, 2018.
Moti Milrod

However, he said, Hamas-sponsored attacks are easier to foil, due to the fact that they require the use of more extensive planning and network, whereas lone wolves "are hard to get to before the attack."

Senior officers said they are concerned over an increasingly successful trend of carrying out attacks and shifting activity from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, particularly since the September attack in Gush Etzion, in which Ari Fuld was stabbed to death.

One of reasons for this is a desire to bring some quiet to the Gaza Strip and give an emerging agreement between Israel and Hamas a chance to succeed.

Defense officials added that the Palestinian Authority and its security forces are trying to fight attempts by Hamas to heat up the West Bank. Not unlike the IDF and Shin Bet security service, the PA arrests Hamas activists working to establish terror networks in the West Bank.

The scene of a stabbing attack at a shopping mall in the West Bank, September 16, 2018.
Emil Salman

In November alone there were four attacks and attempted attacks. On November 26, a car-ramming attack near the Gush Etzion Junction lightly wounded three soldiers. On November 22, shots were fired at the Jalameh crossing near Jenin. On November 7, shots were fired at a bus near the settlement of Beit El and November 5 saw an attempted stabbing at the Elias Junction.

In some cases, perpetrators were shot and wounded or killed, while others were arrested. But in the most serious attack in recent months, a shooting at the Barkan industrial area near the settlement of Ariel, the perpetrator, Ashraf Walid Saliman Na'alwa, who killed two Israelis, evaded capture and has been at large for some 60 days now.

"A terrorist who manages to get away has a great effect on the grassroots," a senior Central Command officer said, adding that forces are spread over a wider area now as a result.

Some of the incidents since the Barkan shooting were inspired by other attacks or carried out for revenge. Such is a stabbing of an IDF reservist in October at the entrance to Nablus, which was reportedly committed in revenge for the death of 47-year-old Aisha Mohammed Rabi, when stones were thrown at the car in which she was riding, near Tapuach junction in the northern West Bank.