A combination of the IDF's given free reign in the West Bank and the difficulties created by the barrier fence have led to a large decrease in terrorist attacks within Israel.
The more relaxed mood has a simple explanation. It is three months since the last serious terrorist attack.
The army says there were 25 such attacks in 2002, which killed 147 people. Last year there were 20, killing 141. So far this year there have been only two, in which 19 died.
Sources close to Hamas, which is responsible for many of the suicide attacks, say that in the West Bank, from where most operations were launched, the organisation has been badly hit.
"There is no money to finance operations," said one. "Many of the leaders are gone and it is difficult to replace them. Hamas needs at least two years to rebuild."
Israel's government has once again given the IDF free rein to operate in the West Bank as it could before the Oslo Agreement. The IDF and the intelligence services have been rebuilding informer networks and rounding up literally thousands of suspected terrorists. A lot of the decrease in attacks is a consequence of the gradual restoration of the informer networks and the locking up of all the sorts of people that Oslo set free.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says only about 2,000 Palestinians have been locked up. But an Israeli human rights organization puts the number at about 6,600.
He also said that security forces have arrested over 2,000 Palestinians. According to Be'tselm, the Israeli human rights organization, Israel currently holds over 6,600 Palestinians in military and government-run prisons.
Writing for the Jewish magazine Forward Ofer Shelah explains it is much more difficult to launch attacks through the remaining gaps in the barrier.
Another major factor is the security fence. Although barely one-third of its planned length is completed, it poses new difficulties for the terrorists. Before its erection in northern Samaria, more than 80% of suicide bombers penetrated Israel from that region. Now, terrorist organizers in Nablus or Jenin have to smuggle the would-be bomber to Ramallah, where he or she must contact another operative, and receive the explosive belt, which must be smuggled separately. Another operative, often a resident of East Jerusalem (who carries an Israeli ID, and therefore has an easier pass through the roadblocks), tries to smuggle the person and charge into Israel. All this activity takes time and makes it easier for Shabak to trace it somewhere along the way. Six such attempts were foiled in or around Ramallah in the past two months.
The completion of the barrier will reduce terrorist attacks still further. But when will the barrier be completed?
The most worrisome trend is the involvement of Israeli Arabs in attacks. (Jerusalem Post, free registration needed)
In 2003, terror organizations assisted by Israeli Arabs succeeded in perpetrating four suicide bomb attacks in Israel in which 45 Israelis were killed. East Jerusalem Arabs were involved in five suicide bomb attacks in Israel in which 64 Israelis were killed. The terror organizations also enlisted the help of east Jerusalem residents to compile intelligence, stake out suitable sites to launch attacks and shelter and dispatch suicide bombers to the sites. Some 26 Israeli-Arab terror cells were uncovered last year.
Since last August security officials have noticed a growing involvement of Iran and the Hizbullah in Palestinian terror organizations operating in the Territories.
Once the barrier is completed what will be the next move by the Palestinian terrorist groups? Will Hizbullah become a bigger player? How will they manage to get attacks launched in Israel proper? It seems unlikely that the frequency of attacks can be restored to its peak during Intifada II. But my guess is that Hizbullah and Hamas will work together to launch new kinds of attacks that offer the prospect of killing many more Israelis per attack. If they can develop the technology and use Israeli Arabs to help build and deliver bombs aimed at blowing up fuel storage sites or buildings they still might manage to kill hundreds or even thousands of Israelis in a single year.
The Israelis need to separate themselves from the Palestinians as thoroughly as possible. But if the settler movement manages block attempts to close the remote settlements on the West Bank and the remote settlements even expand then the IDF will need to continue to operate roadblocks and conduct a high tempo of operations in the West Bank. The disruption of the lives of ordinary Palestinians will continue, avoidable grievances will continue to build up, and world opinion toward Israel will deteriorate.
Update: With regard to the mentions above of Hezbollah (also spelled Hizbollah or Hiz Bollah) and the threat it poses to Israel as well as the involvement of Iran and Syria in supporting Hezbollah see the previous post Jeffrey Goldberg on Hezbollah. Note the sheer amount of rockets the Hezbollah possesses in Lebanon. Imagine what Hamas or Islamic Jihad would do with such rockets if they had them in Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
The desire to prevent the smuggling of rockets into Gaza has got to be one of the motives for the latest move the Israelis are considering: Israel may build a moat along the Philadelphia road that separates Gaza from Egypt to stop weapons smuggling.
JERUSALEM -- Israel set in motion a plan yesterday to dig a dry moat 2 1/2 miles long and 80 feet deep along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, a project meant to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian militants through tunnels.
The IDF is considering a 60 meter wide, 20 meters deep canal filled with water in order to prevent tunnels being built from Egypt to the Palestinian side of Rafah, IDF officials told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
It was not clear whether the moat would be filled with water, as Israeli military sources had suggested last month, or would be dry.
Defence officials confirmed that the moat will be built along the Philadelphi Route by the border ahead of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, including all Jewish settlements, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2005.
But defence ministry officials are deadly serious. A senior defence official said a major part of the cost for digging the moat will be financed by the sale of large quantities of sand that will be dug up during construction.
It is still unclear, however, whether Israel has the right to sell the sand, since the land in question is defined as "occupied" territory.
The Israel Defense Forces hopes to spin a web of new, unmanned weapons technology along the Israel-Gaza border after the planned withdrawal form the Strip, using remote-controlled vehicles, drone planes the size of children's toys and guard posts filled with high-tech sensors and weapons instead of soldiers.
One of the unmanned aerial vehicles that might be used on the Gaza border is the Israeli Hermes 450 which the US Department of Homeland Security is putting into operation on the Arizona border with Mexico.
The Hermes 450 is made by Elbit Systemsí Silver Arrow subsidiary of Haifa, Israel. According to specifications provided by the company, it can carry payloads up to 750 lb. and fly for as long as 20 hours. The aircraft has a ceiling of 18,000 feet but likely will operate at about 9,500 feet in the Arizona project.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 June 29 06:14 PM MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis|