Jerusalem Bus Attack Not Necessarily a Sign of Violent Escalation

Until now no explosives have been found in West Bank raids to compare with the quality of those that killed hundreds of Israelis a decade ago.

Israeli forensics search in the remains of a burned-out bus after a bomb blast ripped through the vehicle in Jerusalem on April 18, 2016.
Thomas Coex / AFP

Two dramatic developments – the blast of an explosive in a Jerusalem bus and the announcement of the discovery of a tunnel along the Gaza border – were reminiscent of events past, from other periods, such as the Second Intifada and the rounds of fighting against Hamas in Gaza.

But both these incidents do not necessarily point to a significant escalation or a change in the trajectory of violence. Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank, which from time to time slides across the Green Line, has declined in recent months but there was no place for presuming it had stopped entirely.

The exposure of the tunnel from the Strip was an expected development, given the news of Hamas resuming its digging of attack tunnels into Israeli territory and that the IDF was investing a great deal of effort to uncover them.

At this stage, it appears that the loss of the tunnel has not inspired the organization to retaliate, despite its fears that the technological solution Israel has developed will lead it to discover yet more tunnels.

This is the first time the Palestinians have succeeded in setting of an explosive on a bus, after more than six months of violence. Previous attempts have been thwarted by exposure of Hamas explosives laboratories in the Jerusalem area, and the arrests of yet other suspects.

The fact that the attack on Monday ended only with wounded, and that the victim most seriously wounded may be the terrorist who planted the explosive, seems to show that this was apparently an improvised device. Until now in the current intifada no explosive devices have been found resembling the quality or weight of those that killed hundreds of Israelis a decade ago.

IDF and Shin Bet operations conducted without interference throughout the West Bank, alongside systematic arrests by the Palestinian Authority (contrary to the previous Intifada) of Hamas armed forces members, are making it difficult for the organization to reconstruct its terrorist capabilities in the West Bank. Therefore it is difficult for now to see the bus attack as a sign of significant change in the type of violence.

It would also seem, however, that the incident will make it difficult to advance the initiative discussed until recently by both sides to reduce IDF operations in Area A in Ramallah and Jericho, and to restore full security responsibility in both areas to the Palestinian Authority.