IDF Central Command has deployed the elite special ops ‘Maglan’ unit in Gush Etzion in a last-gasp attempt to avoid the necessity of another complete separation between Jews and Arabs in the region, as happened a decade ago.
The goal: identify potential jihadists before they start their journey to terror and turn them around.
“It is possible to track down and identify a lone terrorist before he has made that final decision to stab or run someone over, and to stop [the attack,] Col. Roman Gofman, Commander of the Etzion Brigade, told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site.
“This requires two things: locating the potential attacker and then putting pressure on him or persuading him not to carry out the attack. Once he has decided to attack it’s very hard to stop him,” Gofman noted, according to the report.
One of the new methods of pressuring potential attackers is that of “targeted closure.” This involves quietly knocking on the door of the targeted individual and then entering the home in the wee hours, before anyone can slip away to the cafe before heading out to work at 3:30 am, when most leave their villages. If it is not possible to enter quietly, IDF soldiers will do what they must, which could include shouting or drawing weapons. But the preferred method is to move quietly, with dignity, in order to carry out an arrest and begin the necessary conversation.
Targeted individuals include those ages 16 to 25 who appear to be seeking attention and perhaps martyrdom along the way, Gofman explains. “Every attacker leaves signs long before they decide to become martyrs. We just need to pick up these signals from every possible source: Shin Bet, social networks and many other things that would point to … a potential attacker.
“In earlier periods terrorists wanted to kill Jews and some were willing to become martyrs for it,” Gofman said. “Now they want to become martyrs and if they can kill a couple of Jews while accomplishing that, then all the better.
“One way or another they are lauded and gain status in Palestinian society. They are the target of incitement from all directions. Lone attacks are a result of vicious cycle whose essence is imitation and inspiration.”
Teens who have already thrown stones and/or firebombs at Israeli vehicles or security forces are arrested and taken into custody. They are then questioned by investigators who also try to persuade them not to repeat their mistakes — not to commit the same crimes once they are released. They are typically sent to jail for a long enough sentence hopefully to deter but not harden them.
Especially for those who have not yet acted and have no criminal file, the IDF discussions with parents and extended family, carried out in fluent Arabic, have often been effective. The explanations about the consequences of their child’s actions can have great influence, according to Gofman.
“Even those who distribute candy after attacks, do not want their sons to commit suicide,” Gofman told Ynet journalist Ron Ben-Yishai. “Most of them are like that. Most of them want to see their child come home from school, or the younger son return home from work, so they are therefore a powerful influence through whom we try to act.”