Israel Thwarted Hundreds of Terror Attacks, Some With the Help of Big Data, Shin Bet Says

Israeli security service invested heavily in new technology, including machine learning and AI to thwart attacks 'even before they happen'

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
Undercover Israeli police arrest a Palestinian demonstrator during clashes following protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.
Undercover Israeli police arrest a Palestinian demonstrator during clashes following protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of IsraelCredit: AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Around 250 terrorist attacks were thwarted in Israel this year and more than 400 Palestinians planning isolated attacks were arrested, Shin Bet security service head Nadav Argaman said on Wednesday.

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Speaking at an international counter-terrorism conference held by the Public Security Ministry on Wednesday, Argaman said the attacks the Shin Bet foiled this year include planned suicide attacks, kidnapping and gunfire.

The Shin Bet has invested heavily in new technology, including big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to thwart attacks "even before they happen," in what he termed "forecasting intelligence."

In 2017 the Shin Bet arrested 1,394 Palestinians who had planned to commit terrorism, Argaman said.

>> How Israel Jails Palestinians Because They Fit the 'Terrorist Profile'

"Rioting on Temple Mount leads to waves of lone-wolf attacks in the West Bank," Argaman said. The attacks start shortly after the riots, he said.

Recent years have been marked by the rise of the lone-wolf attackers, beyond the threats of established terrorism. The lone-wolfs tend to be copy-cats inspired by radical discourse in social media, Argaman said.

Last December, Argaman told the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the Knesset that the Shin Bet had foiled 400 terror attacks in 2017, including 13 planned suicide attacks, and eight abductions. The organization thwarted 1,100 lone-wolf attacks last year, Argaman said.

Iran's success

Army intelligence chief Tamir Heyman said that Iran's rocket attack on northern Israel had been a huge success for them, even though it was an operational failure. Israel's admission to the Iranian attack and the fact that shelters were opened indicated a success to the Iranians. Heyman also said that the Iranians intended to create terrorism units that would attempt to enter Israel, he said.

Mossad head Yossi Cohen also touched on Iran, saying that Shiite forces are flocking to southern Syria from all over the world in the hope of war on Israel. Cohen added that Iran dreams of having nuclear weapons, and is still shipping weapons to organizations throughout the Middle East in the hope of destabilizing the region.

"We have to do everything to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons," Cohen said. "Iran continues to support Hezbollah and the Hamas, and is their number one supporter, as [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah himself said." He added that Iran is not only funding Hezbollah, but arming it.

The Mossad isn't settling for collecting and handing over information, Cohen said: it also takes action. "The Mossad has relationships with countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations," Cohen said. The organization's job includes "going in, coming out and doing what has to be done".

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he would set up a committee to look at the incarceration conditions of security prisoners. "Anybody planning a terror attack needs to know they'll pay for it with their lives, or rot in jail for years," Erdan said.

Yuval Biton, the Prison Service's chief intelligence officer, said that some security prisoners continue to plan attacks from their cells – chiefly abductions, hoping that they themselves will be swapped in a future prisoner exchange.

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