Over the past year, the IDF and GSS foiled 180 planned shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria, a senior officer in the IDF Judea and Samaria Division told military reporters Sunday. Some of the attacks were prevented just before their execution and some in planning stages that involved up to three terrorists. That same Sunday, according to the officer, there had been drive by shots outside a gate leading to the town of Beit El near Ramallah. The vehicle escaped and no one was hurt. It was the 39th shooting attack recorded since January 1 this year.
According to the IDF officer, the center of shooting attacks have moved in recent months from Gush Etzion to the Benjamin region. Most of the terror infrastructures exposed have been local, and only few have functional organizational ties. Hamas may be encouraging attacks, but the terrorist cells are not receiving their orders or their supplies from any known terrorist headquarters. Interrogation of captured cells show they are motivated mostly by news about ISIS attacks in European civilian centers.
“The typical connection of these cell members is familial – they come either from the same clan or neighborhood,” the officer noted.
The most popular targets for these independent cells are IDF positions, hitchhiking stops, and moving vehicles, which they shoot at from an ambush position or in a drive by.
According to the briefing officer, today’s Arab terrorists in the liberated territories are very different from the classic PLO, Hamas, or Islamic Jihad members of the first two intifadas. “These are young Palestinians who no longer talk about the fabric of life, but rather about the quality of life,” he said. “They seek entertainment and spend a lot of money on clothing. The Deheishe refugee camp in the Bethlehem area is seeing a crazy increase in the number of young men working out in local gyms. On the other hand, all of that does not stop them from believing in an extremist ideology and carrying out attacks. It has to do with a gap in their understanding of us, it’s a cultural issue.”
The Israeli military response has changed accordingly, the officer reported. “We are more efficient than before. We no longer attempt to cover vast areas, but operate in a focused way instead.” He explained that the IDF units are more dynamic now, moving to hot spots on the highways based on up-to-the-minute intelligence.
He also suggested that demolishing homes that belonged to terrorists has had a deterrence effect, and part of the reduction in terrorist activity can be attributed to the increase to 21 demolitions this year, up from 7 in 2015.
Another factor has been the IDF’s massive investment in CCTVs and lighting across the liberated territories, as well as in enhancing communications among the forces in the area.