Shootings by Palestinians Main Threat in West Bank, Israeli Officer Says

The army, meanwhile, is raiding workshops that make submachine guns, but many thousands of rifles are still thought to be at large.

Palestinians shoot a water balloon with a paint gun during a training session at a youth camp with Palestinian security forces, in the West Bank city of Jericho, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.
Majdi Mohammed/AP

The main security threat in the West Bank is shooting attacks, particularly on highways, a senior Israeli army officer in the territories told military reporters Thursday, summing up events in 2016.

He noted that the number of knifing attacks, car-rammings and shootings had declined last year compared with 2015.

More specifically, the number of shootings at soldiers and the Border Police declined, but the number of such attacks on civilians remained unchanged at 18 incidents.

Israeli soldiers secure the scene of a shooting attack near Hebron, West Bank, Friday, July 1, 2016.
Nasser Shiyoukhi, AP

He said many shootings stemmed from copycat attempts after attacks that reaped significant casualties.

Late this week there have been three shooting incidents in the West Bank. The army said soldiers were fired on Wednesday near the West Bank village of Abud, near the settlement of Halamish. Soldiers later searched the area.

Earlier in the day an armed Palestinian opened fire at Route 55 near the Palestinian town of Azun before fleeing. A day earlier a Palestinian opened fire at a military guard post near Abud. Soldiers returned fire and wounded the gunman.

The army says the weapon was a homemade Carl Gustav submachine gun, which are common in the West Bank and considered of decent quality.

The senior officer said these incidents were unrelated to the beginning of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term and his declaration that he might move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

“We don’t see a link these incidents have been on the rise for months,” he said. “Anything connected to Jerusalem, something the Palestinians are involved with, could affect the area, but we don’t see this now.”

The army is striving to prevent the production of weapons in the West Bank by raiding the workshops that make them. Equipment is confiscated and owners of lathes are detained.

These actions have raised the price of a Carl Gustav to 6,000 shekels ($1,590) from 1,500 shekels. A rifle made from improvised parts costs 4,500 shekels.

Army figures show that in 2016, equipment was confiscated at 43 workshops, with 445 weapons seized. Of these, 100 were Carl Gustavs and 40 were standard M16s, which cost between 50,000 and 60,000 shekels each.

“We’ve caught fewer than 500 guns, which is negligible compared to what’s out there, estimated to be in the many thousands,” the officer said.