The New Face Of Terrorism

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The recent wave of Palestinian terrorism no longer seems like a short-lived violent episode, but rather like something that is here to stay for the foreseeable future. On Wednesday, the violence took a new, disturbing and dangerous turn: the attack near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, which killed border policewoman Cpl. Hadar Cohen and wounded another border policewoman, means the next phase of hostilities — major terrorist attacks — may be lurking right around the corner.

Until now, terrorist attacks were the work of lone wolves — individuals who woke up one day and, for a myriad of reasons known only to them, and compounded by the Palestinian Authority’s incessant incitement, decided to kill Jews. In the absence of organizational infrastructure, logistical resources and funds, these individuals used basic, unsophisticated weapons, carrying out stabbing attacks and the occasional ramming attack. These measures have proven lethal, but for the most part, they only allowed the terrorists to harm a small number of Israelis prior to being neutralized.
Wednesday’s attack was a different story: It was not the work of a lone wolf who, barring preliminary indication, is almost impossible to stop, but the work of a group, one that had to plan its moves prior to carrying their nefarious plan out; it was not limited to improvised, crude weapons, but included automatic weapons and pipe bombs with mass-casualty potential; and its target was not one of the checkpoints near the terrorists’ hometown of Qabatiya — it was Jerusalem, chosen no doubt to maximize the impact, both figuratively and literally.
Mass-casualty attacks are what Hamas has been trying to orchestrate for the past few months, so far to no success. Pressured by its own operatives in the Gaza Strip and by its Turkey-based headquarters, Hamas is frantically trying to establish infrastructure in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem in order to abduct and kill Israelis. The organization’s attempts to sink its claws into both areas have recently been thwarted before taking any tangible shape, but the Shin Bet security agency’s working assumption is that Hamas has not given up, and that it still has various cells in both areas, in different stages of organization.
The investigation into the Damascus Gate attack has yet to determine the scope of the organization, whether the terrorists had accomplices who harbored them or drove them to the scene, and who supplied then with weapons. The only thing that is clear so far is that none of them had any known affiliation with any of the major terrorist groups. It seems no one had recruited them to carry out the attack — it was an independent initiative.
The question of motive also remains unanswered at this point in time. There is no shortage of youths just like Wednesday’s three assailants in Judea and Samaria, and Qabatiya has a long history of spurring violence. In fact, hundreds of Palestinians involved in terrorist activities since the First Intifada have called the Jenin-adjacent village their home, including six terrorists involved in the current hostilities.
Terrorism, of course, is nothing without its copycats. Terrorists have the tendency to repeat patterns of assault, especially those proven successful. For example: Early in the current wave of terrorism there was a series of stabbing attacks in Jerusalem, followed by a series of ramming attacks in the capital. The security crackdown shifted the terrorists’ focus to Hebron, which saw a prolonged bout of violence, before the focus shifted again, this time taking the shape of terrorist infiltrations into Judea and Samaria communities.
The defense establishment’s main effort at this time is to curtail the killing spree, thus reducing the number of Palestinians who rush to repeat terrorist attacks.
The natural concern is that Palestinian youth will try to launch more complex terrorist attacks, combining knives, firearms and explosives, like the trio at Damascus Gate, with the sole intent of killing as many Israelis as possible. On the one hand, an organization of this nature may prove easier to uncover, as its plans require equipment, coordination and travel — all steps that would enable the Shin Bet to gather intelligence and thwart danger; but on the other hand, such an organization entails far deadlier potential, and in the absence of prevention, each attack may result not only in casualties but also in further security escalation.
Since the onset of the current wave of terrorism in October, Israel has been careful to avoid two key issues, namely harming innocent Palestinians and undermining the coordination with Palestinian security forces. The former seeks to maintain the Palestinian fabric of life and minimize their desire to join the cycle of violence, and the latter seeks to retain the Palestinian Authority as a functioning entity, as well as ensure its security forces undercut terrorism of their own volition. After all, destabilizing or disbanding the Palestinian security forces may push some of its troops into dangerous corners.
A mass-casualty attack, or a series of them, may force Israel to deviate from its plan. Changes to current operational procedures will require imposing various limitations on the Palestinian population, both as a punitive action as well as one meant to generate deterrence. Such measures will undoubtedly lead the Palestinians to pressure the Ramallah government, which in turn will become more adversarial toward Israel.
Should Hamas be the one instigating such attacks, this process could prove even more dangerous. An example of how quickly things can spiral out of control dates back as recently as the summer of 2014, when the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in Judea and Samaria led to a series of Israeli moves that culminated in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. The current situation is similar, as an incident that begins in Israel or in Judea and Samaria could end with another military campaign on the southern border.
Hamas is not interested in a confrontation at this time, but that does not stop it from gearing up for a new round of hostilities. The change in the balance of power between Hamas’ political and military wings was evident to anyone paying attention to a recent speech by Hamas political leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, whose belligerent rhetoric made him sound less like a politician and more like a general.
The aggressive tone indicates that Hamas understand that fresh fighting in Gaza may erupt at any moment. This is also why Hamas is sparing no effort to rebuild its grid of terror tunnels, as it fully plans to use it to exact a heavy price from Israel.
This shift, and the potential escalation it harbors for both Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, mandates Israel go back to the drawing board and ask itself what it really wants — from the Palestinian Authority, from Hamas and, on a wider spectrum, from the Arab nations and the West.
Such discussions have been taking place in the defense establishment but not in the cabinet, where some ministers are busy reprimanding military commanders, sometimes in the ugliest of ways, and searching for micro-tactic solutions, as if they were the commanders in the field and not policy makers. This process is dangerous not only because it distorts the systems involved, but because it lacks the in-depth discussion that could prevent the situation from escalating further; and if, heaven forbid, it does — to emerge victorious.
Posted with permission by Israel Hayom



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About Phil Mayo

I write about Bible prophecy. Come visit my website. If you like eschatology, you will like this...

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