JERUSALEM – With a large increase in the number of shootings, stabbings, stonings and Molotov cocktail attacks against Israelis in the past few weeks, Israeli security officials said they fear the violent trend might be indicative of a plan by Palestinian terror groups to launch a new intifada against the Jewish state, focused mostly against Jews in the West Bank.
The Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of the long-ruling Fatah party, claimed responsibility for five shootings last week, including the fatal shooting of a Jewish man at a gas station southeast of Nablus in the West Bank.
Palestinian terrorists also stabbed three Jews in the West Bank last week. At least four other stabbings were prevented.
Incidences of stone-throwing, Molotov cocktail lobbing, shooting and stabbing have been reported daily during the past two weeks, mostly in Judea and Samaria. During this period, 50 firebombs were thrown, compared to 35 in the previous two weeks; 39 incidents of violence or damage to Jewish property were reported, compared to 26 in the previous two weeks; and there were 225 stone-throwing incidents, compared to 200 in the same period. Shooting attacks reportedly rose from 26 to 37 in the last two weeks, and the number of bombs planted from six to 15.
Security officials said more data needs to be collected before determining the implications of the rise in violence, but they warned that the information coincides with trends indicative of the start of the previous two Palestinian intifadas.
The first Palestinian intifada started in 1987 and developed into a well-organized violent rebellion orchestrated by Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization from its headquarters in Tunis. It began with lower-level attacks similar to those seen the past few weeks, such as rock throwing.
The so-called second intifada was initiated in 2000 after Arafat rejected at Camp David an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state on most of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and sections of eastern Jerusalem. The violence began with rock throwing, shootings and stabbings and morphed into continued suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Some 993 Israelis and 3,781 Palestinians have been killed so far. Many say the second intifada is still being waged.
Security officials said they would expect any so-called third intifada to be concentrated mostly against Jewish communities in the West Bank.
“The Palestinian terror groups took responsibility for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza with their increased attacks there,” said a senior security official. “Now it seems they are looking to do the same in the West Bank. This will be the scene of the next terror war.”
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced that his administration will seek to “change Israel̓s borders” by withdrawing from most of the West Bank. He alluded to evacuating major West Bank Jewish communitis that fall outside Israel’s security fence.
The major increase in attacks and latest Israeli warnings follow a series of exclusive interviews with leaders of the Palestinian terror groups who warned they soon will launch a massive violent campaign against Israel. Some terrorist leaders, particularly from the Al Aksa Brigades, whose associated Fatah Party scored poorly against Hamas in last month’s parliamentary elections, say they are planning a “third intifada” against Israeli civilians, mostly to revolt against the new Hamas-controlled Palestinian government.
“The new intifada is only a question of time and this will be the hardest and the most dangerous one. It’s just about timing until the order to blow up a new wave of attacks will be given,” Abu Nasser, a senior Al Aksa Brigades leader from the Balata refugee camp in northern Samaria, said in an interview. Abu Nasser, who boasted of orchestrating last week’s fatal West Bank shooting attack, declared the Brigades will not respect any cease-fire agreed upon by Hamas and will not halt attacks at Hamas’s request.
“When we were in power, we were obliged to be more sensitive and more obedient to the instructions and policies of our leadership,” he said. “Now that we lost the elections, why should we obey the leaders and just who do we obey? Hamas?”
Other terror leaders told said now that Olmert announced a West Bank withdrawal, terrorism against Israel must be stepped up “to prove we are chasing out the Israelis like we did in Gaza.”
Abu Oudai, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades leader responsible for coordinating the organization’s rocket network in the West Bank, warned his organization is preparing a massive rocket onslaught against Israel.
Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella organization of terror groups responsible for the majority of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, warned his group is prepared to launch a rocket intifada in the West Bank and against major Israeli cities.
“The lives of Israeli citizens will turn to hell very soon,” Abu Abir said.
Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Zahar said his group for the time being will refrain from participating in terror attacks, but it will not ask other groups to halt their violence.