The head of Israel’s General Security Services (Shin Bet) Nadav Argaman on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security committee that Hamas has increased significantly its efforts to promote major terror attacks in Judea and Samaria and in green line Israel. He cited “intensive attempts” to carry out mass-casualty attacks. These efforts, according to Argaman, have been foiled by Israeli security. In 2016, Israel arrested 1,035 Hamas individual “activists” and 114 cells – compared with 70 cells in 2015.
According to Argaman’s strategic analysis of the region, ISIS has been rapidly losing its power, the struggle between super powers is affecting the region, while the European Union, as well as Israel’s neighbors Egypt and Jordan, are busy managing their internal problems.
Terrorism in Judea and Samaria has been winding down in 2016, continuing the trend of decline that began in October, 2015. While October 2015 had seen hundreds of terror attacks, in January 2016 there were 132 attacks, and in February their number was down to 82. Sixteen Israelis and one foreign national were killed by terrorism in 2016, and 149 were wounded – compared with 20 dead and 188 wounded in 2015.
According to the head of Shin bet, this trend is the result of Israel’s deterrent and preventive measures. However, while the number of attacks and riots has declined, there have still been a number of significant attacks in 2016, which Argaman sees as two concurrent trends: while the general Arab public has realized that the price of disorder is too high, there still exists a significant trend among Arab youths that see terrorism as a legitimate avenue for change.
The main “manufacturer” of terror attacks is still the “lone attacker,” Argaman told the committee, but the weight of independent cells has risen as well. Thanks to the development of advanced capabilities, Shin bet has been able to rise to the challenge of locating and arresting lone attackers. This resulted in the prevention of some 400 potential attacks. These included 344 significant attacks, which included 184 shootings, 16 kidnappings, 16 suicide bombings, and 86 “sacrifice attacks,” which included ramming and stabbing attempts.
The Palestinian Authority is on standby at this point, Argaman said, waiting to hear a clear message from the Trump Administration. Chariman Mahmoud Abbas has fortified his own position and the dominance of the central faction in the PLO, following the 7th PLO conference.
In the Gaza Strip, as of the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, there has been an unprecedented quiet – with no Israeli casualties for the first time in three decades. Altogetehr, according to Argaman, there were 44 attacks from the strip in 2016 – the exact same number as in 2015. Most of these (23) were rockets shot mostly by the Salafi-Jihadist groups.
The head of Shin Bet believes Hamas has been avoiding a new confrontation with Israel, for two reasons: it is not yet operationally ready for such an undertaking, and it is still dealing with the damage inflicted on its population in 2014. However, he cautioned, this quiet is deceptive. The main factors that could undermine security stability – the rogue Jihadist gangs; systematic Hamas efforts to launch terror attacks in Judea and Samaria; the accelerated Hamas military buildup; the slow recovery from the ruin of 2014; collapsing essential utilities; and a rise in unemployment are placing Hamas in a stressful strategic position where it has been failing to show political gains nor provide effective solution to the misery of its people.
Eastern Jerusalem is experiencing a significant rise in the number of terror activists as well as individuals who sympathize with the global Jihad. In 2016, 29 eastern Jerusalem residents were involved in terrorism, compared with only three in 2015.
Israeli Arabs continue to show a low involvement in terrorism, however, there has been a slight rise in support for ISIS among Israeli Arab youths.
Finally, according to Argaman, Jewish terrorism was down significantly in 2016, with only two terror attacks carried out by Jews – compared with 16 in 2015. The head of Shin Bet sees this as the result of both the ability of his organization to repress Jewish terror infrastructure through intense enforcement and indictments, as well as the effective suppression of Arab terrorism.