Despite Netanyahu’s declaration, as detailed in this update last week, that “Israel is waging an all-out war on Palestinian terrorism,” and despite the enhanced measures against terrorism that have been put in place, we are seeing a substantial and dramatic increase in fatal attacks by young Palestinian terrorists against Israelis.
This does not seem to be an organized or planned operation. In almost all the incidents so far the terrorists were “lone-wolf” attackers with no apparent terror group affiliation, and the targets were mostly random “soft” targets: a family walking home in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, a child on a bike, people waiting in a bus stop or riding a bus or just walking in the street.
However, an attack in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning was different. At 10:30 a.m. two terrorists boarded a bus in North Jerusalem, with a gun and knives. One was affiliated with Hamas and the other with Abu Mazen’s Fatah group. They opened fire on the passengers and attacked them with a knife, killing three, including a 78-year-old grandfather, and wounding over 20.
One attacker was killed by security forces and the other wounded and captured.
The attacks are not limited to Jerusalem. This week there have been “lone-wolf” attacks in Tel Aviv, Afula, Raanana, and Migdal Haemek. With the exception of the Jerusalem bus attack Tuesday, all were perpetuated by nonaffiliated Palestinians using knives and daggers, or dagger-like weapons such as screwdrivers and even a potato peeler. All the perpetrators were “neutralized” (killed, injured and/or captured).
There are several questions here:
What is behind these individual attacks?
It’s a combination of general disappointment and frustration of the Palestinian youth against their leaders, and incitement on social media — especially graphic pictures and videos about the daily clashes on the Temple Mount between the “Murabitun” stone- and bottle-throwers and the Israeli security forces, accompanied by impassioned calls from PLO leaders and religious clerics to “defend the Holy Sanctuary” (Dome of the Rock) from an imagined Israeli plan to allow Jews to pray there. (Israeli law forbids Jewish or Christian prayer anywhere on the Temple Mount.) The fires were flamed by the Palestinians publishing a photo of a knife-wielding terrorist neutralized by security forces with the caption “Israel murders children.”
Why is the violence continuing and spreading geographically?
Mainly because of the promise of fame, notoriety and financial support (to you, if you go to jail, or your family if you are killed). Also because the social media sites are using the ISIS model to excite, anger and recruit disenfranchised or frustrated men and women to “Save the Holy Shrine.”
Can Israel stop the current wave of violence?
Israel can’t, at least not completely, but it can minimize the chance of it getting worse by making terrorists think twice. For example:
Use of closures and curfews.
Extended jail time for those captured.
Heavy sentences for those who incite to violence and murder — from all religions.
Destroying family homes of all perpetrators … even if the victims were only injured.
Heavy fines on families of underage terrorists.
The Israeli government has already started to, and will continue to, deal with this wave of violence.
One of the issues, according to most experts, is defusing and countering what is referred to as the “‘Dome of the Rock’ psychosis,” that appears to make a young Palestinian man or woman get up one morning, grab a knife or screwdriver, and start stabbing people.
I only hope Israel will succeed before we see another full-scale guns-and-bombs intifada.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.