Palestinian Attacks Dropped Significantly in March, Shin Bet Official Says

Terrorist incidents declined from 78 in October to 20 in March. But 'there is still palpable tension in the field,' a senior official tells Israel's cabinet.

Soldiers outside Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, the scene of a stabbing attack, October 14, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

A senior Shin Bet official told the Israeli cabinet on Sunday that Palestinian attacks had dropped significantly in the past month, with 20 occurring during March compared to 78 in October.

The official attributed the drop in attacks to "expanded operations to thwart them" but cautioned that terrorist groups were still seeking to "perpetrate significant attacks to try to speed up the escalation."

"There is still palpable tension in the field, and there are various players (especially Palestinian terrorist groups, but also others) exerting non-stop efforts to try and destabilize the area," the official said.

Since October 1, Palestinians have perpetrated 270 attacks, most of these shootings, stabbings and car rammings, killing 29 Israelis and four foreign citizens, and wounding another 250 people, the official said.

As the Shin Bet sees it only some of the attacks have been perpetrated for nationalist motives while most were for personal or economic reasons.

More than 290 "significant attacks" have been thwarted since the start of 2015, most of these since October, and that these preventing incidents included 25 kidnappings and more than 15 suicide attacks, the official said.

The official also reported "great effectiveness in thwarting Jewish terrorism" since July's deadly arson that killed a Palestinian couple and young child, and severely wounded another child.

At the weekly session, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reissued instructions to cabinet ministers and lawmakers not to visit the Temple Mount, accusing Palestinians of "intensifying efforts to incite" tensions there particularly ahead of and through the Passover holiday at the end of the month.

Officials at the time saw the outbreak of violence in October as having been fueled by tensions generated by Israeli officials' visits to the holy site which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site.

"The ban on going to the Temple Mount is still in force," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister singled out Raed Salah, an Israeli Arab citizen who heads the extremist northern branch of the Islamic Movement, calling him a "one-man explosive" and demanding that security personnel take steps to "distance him from the area," presumably referring to Jerusalem.