What is behind the latest rise in Palestinian terror attacks?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the huge rise in terrorist incidents in recent weeks, involving mainly rock-throwing and launching Molotov cocktails.  These were followed by the murder of an IDF soldier on the Lebanese border.

This upswing has only become worse in the last few days:

22-year-old Salih Abu Latif, killed by a Gaza sniper

And then yesterday (Tuesday) the terrorism rose another notch with the fatal shooting by a Palestinian sniper of an Israeli civilian working on the Gaza border fence which was damaged in last week’s winter storm.

An Israeli man working on the border fence was killed by sniper fire Tuesday afternoon along the Gaza Strip.

The man, 22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif from the predominantly Bedouin city of Rahat, was working between Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza as a civilian employed by the Israeli Defense Ministry on repairs to a section of the Israel-Gaza border fence damaged in last week’s storm. The fence had collapsed in three locations due to the storm.

Abu Latif sustained a single bullet wound to his chest, according to initial reports. He was evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, and died of his wounds during the evacuation.

The gunfire came from inside Hamas-controlled Gaza.

In response the IAF carried out air strikes against targets in Gaza and the merry-go-round is sure to begin again:

According to Israel Radio, the IAF destroyed a Hamas military training facility west of the Khan Yunis refugee camp. The report added that Hamas targets in the Gaza neighborhood of Zaytoun and the Al-Bureij camp were damaged by the IAF as well.

IDF tanks also fired shells at what it said were terror targets in the Gaza neighborhoods of Zaytoun, Shuja’iyya and the al-Bureij refugee camp.

Military sources said that the airstrikes are “limited in scope” and “are not ongoing.” Aside from a directive given to farmers to avoid the fields in direct proximity to the border, the IDF Home Front Command has issued no further orders to civilians in the area.

According to Palestinian sources in the Strip, two people — a 3-year-old child named Hala Sabiha and her father — were killed during the Israeli strikes, and nine were injured.

[…]

Shortly before the air force strikes, the Hamas leadership ordered the evacuation of all security personal from their posts in Gaza for fear of an imminent Israeli attack.

Such pathetic little terrorists. Perhaps if they had restrained their own personnel from attacking Israel they wouldn’t need to run for their lives.

Speculating about the reason for the latest rise in violence, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon remarked:

“There is no direct connection between the terrorist attacks of the past two days and the shooting at the border of the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of an Israeli worker, but we treat all such incidents very seriously,” Ya’alon added.

A Palestinian holds a burning tire during clashes with the IDF in Qalandia

Another theory for the rise in terrorist incidents was posited by Ynet’s veteran military correspondent Ron Ben Yishai, who thinks it is a sign of the loss of control by PA chief Mahmoud Abbas over the Palestinians who are influenced both by official incitement and the ignoring of terror incidents:

Palestinian Authority officials are referring to it as a “popular uprising,” while the defense establishment is labeling it as a “soft intifada.” The two definitions, the Palestinian and Israeli, appear to point to a misestimate of the phenomenon’s dangerousness. As a result of this misestimate, Israel and the American mediators are not firm enough in their demand that the Palestinian Authority stop the incitement against Israel on the media, while the Palestinian Authority on its part is knowingly allowing a certain level of street violence, and is even encouraging physical damage to what it calls “the symbols of the occupation” (settlements, the security fence and wall, bypasses and boycotting settlement products).

In addition, the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to stop the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, which are considered legitimate as part of the popular uprising. Abbas and his advisors believe, apparently, that they can control the popular uprising and adjust it to a low level of violence which will be enough to promote his political interests, but without jeopardizing the negotiations with Israel and the prisoner release.

[…]

But Abbas, as usual, is not taking into account the fact that the Palestinian street is not a tamed animal which obeys his orders, and that the people on the ground do not always interpret correctly the semi-aggressive signals he and his people convey in their statements. So groups and individuals in the Palestinian arena easily move from throwing stones and Molotov cocktails to shooting and using explosives, although “the Rais” would rather not see that happen.

Abbas does not fully control the Palestinian street. The Israeli intelligence community observed about six months ago that the Palestinian Authority and its security organizations are finding it difficult to enforce their authority in the refugee camps in Judea and Samaria. Groups of gunmen who were born in those camps, including Fatah members, are doing whatever they like there and are even openly threatening senior PA officials who refuse to accept their demands.

[…]

I don’t agree with Ron Ben Yishai’s conclusions though:

The frustrating thing is that there is not much the IDF and Shin Bet can do to calm things down in the current situation. Any reinforcement of the thwarting activity, beyond what is already being done, may lead to an increase in the number of Palestinian casualties, which may escalate the Palestinian violence, and so on and so forth.

One of the only things Israel can do to help calm things down is that the political echelon, the prime minister and the ministers, will avoid making declarations about boosting construction in the territories or other acts of showing off, which are like sticking a finger in the Palestinians’ eye.

It’s about time that commentators like Ben Yishai realise that everything angers the Palestinians. Anything that Israel does can be and is used by the Palestinians as an excuse for incitement, lawfare or terror attacks. Cringing and trying to calm things down will only inflame matters as the Palestinians interpret these actions as Israeli weakness.

Another theory, put forward by a former IDF commander, claims that Hamas is trying to foil the peace talks: although this is disputed by another retired officer:

Maj. Gen. (res) Gadi Shamni, a former head of the IDF’s Central Command, told Army Radio that Hamas — bitterly at odds with the regime in Egypt and uninterested in an escalation with Israel in Gaza at this time — was putting “tremendous effort” into orchestrating terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank.

The organization’s goal, he said, was “to put a spoke in the wheels” of the peace process.

But Brig. Gen. (ret) Shalom Harari, a veteran of the IDF military intelligence and a longtime adviser on Palestinian affairs to the Defense Ministry, said there was a “constant push” to carry out attacks. “I don’t link it to the negotiations,” he said. “When they can — they act.”

[…]

Harari, who spoke to The Times of Israel shortly before a Palestinian sniper killed Salah Abu Latif, an Israeli laborer who was working on the security fence Tuesday, said that Hamas’s motivation in trying to drum up terror was “more about screwing Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas]” than anything else.

Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights worker and an insightful analyst of Arab affairs, wholeheartedly agreed. He said he had “no shadow of a doubt” that Hamas’s primary goal in calling for an intifada from the West Bank was, first, to weaken the Palestinian Authority and only second to hinder the negotiations.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett questioned the logic behind continuing with the peace process in the light of the continued terror attacks.

Avi Issacharoff in the Times of Israel links the rising violence both to Kerry’s peace push and to the PA’s losing control of the “street”:

The territories are generally heating up, with the feeling that the political process is going nowhere, the expanded building in the territories, and the relatively high number of Palestinian fatalities in clashes with the IDF — three last week in the West Bank and Gaza, and 28 from the beginning of the year in the West Bank — all amplifying the unrest against Israel.

[…]

Hamas doesn’t want progress in peace talks, and wouldn’t be happy over the news of a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, reportedly to be presented by the end of the month.

The organization also senses the growing ferment in the territories, especially inside the refugee camps. On the one hand, this agitation is apparent during IDF operations, which immediately draw out hundreds of residents into violent confrontations. But it has also been directed at the Palestinian Authority, a trend that was apparent over the weekend, when dozens of youths took to the streets and burned tires in Tulkarm in protest over the plans of the PA and the municipality to put electric meters in the homes of the residents (which can give exact electricity usage readings, and allows users to be charged accordingly). The residents didn’t like the idea, and resorted to demonstrations, blocking roads for hours.

Mahmoud Abbas has created a tiger with his incitement and passive encouragement of terrorism, which he is trying to ride and is now rapidly losing control of it.

This is all exacerbated by the Americans’ insistence on pushing their nose into our business and all but forcing the two sides to discuss “peace” when the conditions on the ground are nowhere near ready. This will inevitably lead to failed expectations on the Palestinian street and yet more violence, which will then bring on Israeli counter-attacks.

And thus the “cycle of violence” will spiral ever on.

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9 Responses to What is behind the latest rise in Palestinian terror attacks?

  1. Crime is often viewed as a “necessary evil” of developed nations. Terrorism, may be viewed as part of that “evil” although its motivation is far more despicable than the “garden variety” of crime, i..e., rape, robbery, murder, burglary and assault. Terrorism is intended to kill innocents. “Ordinary” crime almost always seeks to avoid casualty to innocents. Nevertheless, the average homicide rate (incidents per 100,000) world-wide is approximately, 7.6. In the U.S, it is easily tolerated at 4.7 and in Israel, it stands at 2.1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#By_region). Placing the Palestinian terror attacks in this context, although being an important threat that must be confronted, controlled and responded to, still remains as more of a nuisance than a serious national challenge. It should also be born in mind that it is led by really stupid people who challenge and seek to defeat their historically beneficent nation of Israel rather than to restore the cloak of peace and prosperity they enjoyed between 1967 and the first Intifada. It is unfortunate that, by now, Palestinians have been allowed to forget that period of peace and prosperity. Wouldn’t it appear to be wise to use these incidents as media opportunities to remind them of lost opportunities?

    • anneinpt says:

      You are right that the actual casualty figures from Palestinian terrorism are much smaller than those from “regular” crime. But that is as much from Israeli defense measures and the excellent IDF and intelligence as from Palestinian stupidity and inefficiency. Remember, it’s only barely 10 years ago that we were in the midst of a deadly intifada with hundreds being killed every month.

      The present attacks, minor as they are, possibly signify the return of another intifada and that is their danger.

      As for reminding the Palestinians and the world about how good they had it pre-intifada, I fear that train has left the station long ago. The “narrative” has become so embedded and has turned into such received wisdom that I wonder if we will ever be able to restore the truth. Of course that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. I just doubt it will work.

      • In defining Israel’s foreign policy strategy, it may be helpful to distinguish that dealing with Palestinian/Islamic relations from those of the International Community, of which there may be more than a few sub-categories and the United States. Regarding the Palestinian/Islamic issue, it appears that Israel, attempting to encourage a resolution failed to assert its legal sovereignty after defeating their attackers over Gaza and Judea/Samaria and seems to believe it has forfeited that issue – now becoming another train that has left that station. That premise, alone, has given the adversary the primary basis for their claim of illegitimate occupancy and Israel remains mute. So long as Israel fails to establish a legal right to its presence, other than to defend itself – which, as is quite evident it is capable of doing against Hamas – “illegitimate occupancy” will remain a critical factor in the debate. We are therefore left with dealing with the lie of Israel’s “abuse” of uncontested “Palestinian sovereignty” by Israel’s current presence. A lie that can be “outed” by Palestinian history more than by incremental fortuitous examples of Israel’s peaceful actions. What benefit do we enjoy by not reasserting the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty and the truth about Arafat’s selfish, criminal destruction of Palestinian/Israeli relationships?

        • anneinpt says:

          You are absolutely right of course. I addressed this issue at least partially in my other post, about the legality of Judea and Samaria.

          If we don’t assert our own sovereignty over the territories no one else will do it for us, and the Palestinians will take possession by default, both diplomatically and tangibly, on the ground.

  2. Reality says:

    As an added complication the man who was killed was a Bedouin.May he rest in peace.But some Bedouin are aligning themselves with Palestinians because of the Prawer -Begin plan.I don’t know if this makes things even worse or not.Perhaps yet another excuse for Palestinians to riot &rampage.

    • anneinpt says:

      You make a good point. In fact the family of the victim have been blaming Israel for their son’s death, because Israel wasn’t being forthcoming enough towards the Palestinians. i.e. Israel intransigence caused the violence from Gaza, and their son was a victim of that violence. It’s not a fair claim because Israel has been so much more forthcoming than the Palestinians. And anyway, Gaza was turned over to the Palestinians long ago. They have no excuse for violence.

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