Thirty-five rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2017, more than double the previous year’s figure and the highest number since 2014.
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Most of the launches – about 30 – occurred after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, according to data just released by the Israel Defense Forces. However, roughly half those rockets landed inside Gaza.
The IDF expects the rocket fire to continue, for several reasons. One is the desire by Islamic Jihad and other Salafi organizations to thwart the planned reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Another is Islamic Jihad’s desire to avenge Israel’s destruction of a cross-border attack tunnel in October that killed 12 of the organization’s operatives.
During the 2014 war in Gaza (which the IDF called Operation Protective Edge), the Palestinians fired 4,897 rockets and mortars at Israel. But the number dropped sharply in the following two years, with just 23 launches in 2015 and 15 in 2016.
In response to last year’s launches, the IDF attacked 59 targets in Gaza – including tunnels, training bases and weapons-production facilities. Most of the targets were Hamas facilities, because Hamas controls Gaza and Israel therefore holds it responsible for what occurs there. Nevertheless, the IDF has tried to keep its responses moderate enough to avoid triggering a new war, partly because it would like to forestall any war until it finishes building its anti-tunnel barrier around Gaza.
In the West Bank, meanwhile, 2017 saw a sharp decline in the number of attacks, but a slight increase in Israeli casualties. The IDF said there were 99 attacks in 2017 that killed 20 people, compared to 269 attacks that killed 17 Israelis in 2016.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman said the security services had thwarted some 400 attacks by terrorist cells in 2017, including 13 planned suicide bombings and eight kidnappings. They also thwarted around 1,100 potential attacks by lone-wolf assailants, he added.
Together, the Shin Bet and the IDF arrested 3,613 suspected terrorists in 2017, confiscated more than 10 million shekels ($2.9 million) in terrorist funding and shut down 42 facilities for making homemade arms, mainly rifles, Argaman said.