Prompted by the latest killing of three Israelis by a terrorist in Tel Aviv, the journalist Anna Ahronheim considers where Israel must now focus its security resources, and come down very hard, if it is to prevent the current “wave of terrorism” from becoming a tsunami. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Her report is here: “Stop the wave before it becomes a tsunami -analysis,” Jerusalem Post, April 8, 2022:
Two men were killed at a bar on central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff street in a shooting attack carried out by a lone-wolf attacker, who escaped the scene before being killed by security forces. But, it was not on Thursday night, but in 2016.
The same attack, six years apart….
Excluding soldiers and civilians killed in attacks from the Gaza Strip, a total of 17 Israelis were killed in 2016, 20 in 2017, another 11 Israelis were killed in 2018, five killed in 2019, one in 2020, and two Israeli civilians were killed in 2021.
And not even one-third of the way through 2022, already 14 Israelis have been killed by terrorists. This is almost certainly going to be the deadliest year for terrorism since the 2015-2016 Second Intifada.
Six years later, while ISIS has lost its territorial caliphate, Israel is once again in the middle of a wave of violence, and the ideology of the Sunni terror group remains alive, in Israel and the Occupied Territories, albeit weaker.
Amongst West Bank youth, jihadism, in the name of Al-Aqsa and Palestine – especially in the violent city of Jenin – continues to inspire.
While Hamas, still smarting from its defeat last May, has kept a lid on violence in Gaza, not wishing to provoke an Israeli attack on the Strip, in the West Bank Hamas still promotes terrorism, as do the PFLP and PIJ, all of them whipping up Palestinians with fictional horror stories about Israeli plans to “judaize east Jerusalem” and to “take over Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The “judaizing Jerusalem” tale is a reference to the handful of property disputes between Jewish owners and Arab squatters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem that have, after years of litigation, finally come to an end, with eviction notices served on the squatters. In 1967, when Israel took possession of east Jerusalem, there were 66,000 Arabs living there. Now there are 340,000. If Israel is trying to “judaize” the area, it’s not trying very hard.
As for Israel planning to “take over Al-Aqsa Mosque,” this fantastic tale is born of the incident early last May when Israeli police, in hot pursuit of Palestinians on the Temple Mount who had been throwing large rocks both at them and at Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall far below, ran into Al-Aqsa to collar the rock throwers, and quickly pull them out. There is not, and never has been, an Israeli “plot to take over Al-Aqsa,” save in the perfervid oriental imaginations of Palestinians always projecting their own schemes and dreams tonto the Jews, and whipping themselves up into a frenzy of hate.
On Thursday, the suspect, Ra’ad Fathi Hazem, whose father is a former officer in the Palestinian security forces, shot Israeli civilians at two locations on Dizengoff street.…
Security forces had been on high alert after three other attacks in the cities of Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak killed 11 people. More than the past three years combined.…
And with three more Israelis killed in Tel Aviv, that brings the total, in less than two weeks, to 14 dead Israelis.
Troops, among them IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, went house to house searching for terror operatives. The fiercely-fought “Battle of Jenin” is still vivid in the minds of all General Staff officers, as well as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
In January Kohavi is reported to have said that the IDF has plans to operate in the city and was ready to launch a large-scale operation to act against terror cells. The plan was stopped after PA forces were pressured into acting.
Less than three months later the violence has not dissipated.
The IDF’s commander, Aviv Kohavi, had made plans last January to go into Jenin and roll up its terror cells. But it decided instead to apply pressure on the PA to do the job itself. The PA was unsuccessful; it likely did not try very hard, but merely went through the motions. Now the IDF and Shin Bet will have to go into Jenin after all. Not only has violence continued, but within a ten-day span there have been four major terrorist attacks in Israel, with 14 Israelis killed. Two of those four attacks — those at Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv — were committed by Palestinians from Jenin, a hotbed of terrorist sympathizers and “martyrs.”
Whether belonging to Hamas, PIJ, or even Fatah, armed cells have been operating with impunity in Jenin for a very long time. Jenin is now the epicenter of West Bank terrorism. More terrorists now come from Jenin, and its refugee camp, than from any other city in the West Bank. That is why the IDF and Shin Bet have decided to make that city the first target of an exhaustive, 24/7 search, for as long as it takes to seize both weapons and would-be terrorists in their lairs. There is no point in relying on the P.A’s security forces; they have shown that they are incapable, or unwilling, to hunt down the West Bank terrorists, whatever their affiliation – unless of course those terrorists are targeting not Israel but the P.A. itself.
And while the Shin Bet and IDF comb the streets and houses, schools, hospitals, mosques in Jenin, and especially its refugee camp, economic pressure needs to be put on the entire population of the city. A report on the measures Israel has taken on the second day after the Tel Aviv attack can be found here:
Israeli authorities impose restrictions on Jenin after two Palestinians from the area committed deadly terror attacks in Israel, and repeated firefights between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers rock the West Bank city.
“The Jalameh and Rihan checkpoints in the Jenin area will be closed for Arab Israelis to enter and exit, says Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, which is widely known by its acronym COGAT.
The crossings are a key economic artery for the city. Arab Israelis regularly enter to shop in Jenin, and the Ramadan holy month is a crucial time for businesses to get in the black.
This ban on Arab Israelis entering Jenin will be a big blow to the city’s economy. And so will the prohibition on Jenin merchants traveling to Israel, where they both buy and sell goods.
Israeli authorities have issued looser restrictions on West Bank Palestinian movement during Ramadan that allowed women, children, and some men to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers, even without a permit.
Those “looser restrictions” still apply to all the West Bank Palestinians except for the people of Jenin. Furthermore, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has warned that the looser Ramadan restrictions are dependent on observable “stability” – i.e., little terrorism or violence originating in a particular city. Should there be a terrorist attacks by Palestinians coming from other cities — Nablus, say, or Hebron — those cities have been put on notice: they will be subject to the same restrictions as Jenin. That realization might change the plans of would-be terrorists.
The Israelis hold out both the carrot and the stick. Following a situational assessment, Gantz said the army “will continue and intensify” operations, “alongside the continuation of civil policy as agreed.” This means the relaxation of some restrictions at Ramadan for most West Bank cities will remain in force, even as the IDF will “intensify” its anti-terror operations, focusing first on Jenin.
To really damage Jenin’s economy, two things need to happen. First, Israeli Arabs who come to Jenin to shop will no longer be allowed to do so. Second, the businessmen living in Jenin who ordinarily travel to Israel to sell their goods and services, and buy Israeli goods for use in their own manufacturing or for resale, must be prohibited from doing so. Both prohibitions are now in force. These businessmen – the economic elite of Jenin — will feel the financial pain, and they have the clout to have their complaints listened to by city officials, and to insist that terrorism is bad for business and for the city, which is why it should stop. Day laborers count for so little in the economy of the city, their complaints so little heeded, that preventing them from working in Israel would be pointless. As long as none of those day laborers turns out to be a terrorist, the IDF will not prevent them from crossing into Israel to work.
Non-economic measures can also pressure Jenin’s officials, including its mayor, to discourage terrorism. Jenin residents won’t be allowed to visit relatives in Israel, as they do especially during Ramadan. Israel can make a reinstatement of those visiting privileges dependent on the behavior of the Jeninites. If there is no terrorism coming from Jenin for, say, the next six months, then, and only then, will Israel allow people from Jenin to cross into Israel, and Israeli Arabs to enter Jenin.
Israeli forces have repeatedly clashed with Palestinian gunmen in Jenin and the surrounding villages over the past few months. Although the Palestinian Authority conducted a “law and order” operation late last year, Ramallah appears increasingly unable to control the region. Hamas and the PIJ, at the same time, have been ever more active in the West Bank, and in their own recruitment efforts have managed to paint the P.A. as a “tool” of the Israelis, which has had the effect of making the P.A. reluctant to investigate, much less round up, would-be terrorists, and their weapons, in the city.
So let the IDF and Shin Bet make an example of Jenin. Apply economic pressure to the city, by preventing Israeli Arabs from going to Jenin to buy goods, and Jenin businessmen from entering Israel to both buy and sell. Apply another kind of pressure, by preventing Jenin residents from entering Israel to visit relatives. The IDF must keep up a constant search for weapons, wherever they may be hidden, in ordinary homes, schools, hospitals, mosques. No place should be off-limits to the IDF searches. And once the IDF and Shin Bet have turned Jenin upside-down and inside-out to seize weapons and potential terrorists, it’s on to the next city — Hebron? Nablus? — where the same prohibitions on movements in and out will be imposed, the same relentless searches for weapons and would-be terrorists carried out, by the IDF and the Shin Bet.
In hunting down would-be terrorists on a scale attempted only once before in the West Bank, during the Second Intifada, the IDF had to start somewhere. It’s starting with Jenin.
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