The current wave of Palestinian terrorism continues in the West Bank despite the efforts of the Israel Security Agency and the IDF to curb it. The IDF has undertaken major arrest operations for nine months which have thwarted many attacks, though this was not enough to stop them entirely.
The wave of terrorism is led by armed terrorist groups, some of which have begun to operate in the field independently. They are currently supported by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, as well as by Iran.
During 2022, the PA lost its security control over the Nablus and Jenin areas in the northern West Bank. The PA seeks to avoid a frontal military confrontation with the armed groups as long as they do not pose a direct threat to the PA leadership in Ramallah.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas tells his associates he fears that such a conflict will lead to a civil war in the West Bank. Before foreign parties, he claims that the reason for the growth of terrorist groups lies in the fact that the IDF enters the centers of Palestinian cities and Area A on a daily basis in violation of the Oslo Accords and that these groups protect the Palestinian citizens.
The PA security forces are trying to bring about the peaceful disbandment of these groups through the lure of money and jobs. Palestinian officials say the PA is ready to pay $25,000 for every weapon that is handed over to it in the Nablus area.
Six armed terrorist groups operate in the northern West Bank. In the Jenin area, there is the Jenin Battalion, the Jabba groups, the Kabatya groups and the Birkin groups. In the Nablus area, there is the Lions’ Den and the Balata Battalion.
The terrorist operatives in these groups are young people in their twenties who did not experience the Second Intifada. They lack military experience, but managed to quickly and efficiently integrate into the wave of terrorism. According to security officials in Israel, the current wave of Palestinian terrorism is much more dangerous than the last wave of terrorism in 2015.
According to Palestinian sources, 230 Palestinians were killed during 2022, including 171 in the West Bank.
According to estimates in both the IDF and the Palestinian Authority, the wave of terror will continue in 2023 and it may possibly increase because of the Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to confront the terrorist activities of these groups and because of the change of government in Israel.
The new terrorist groups that have emerged in the West Bank will continue to challenge the IDF forces and weaken the Palestinian Authority.
The Netanyahu government will have to deal more harshly with these terrorist groups that operate from Area A which are under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority does not fight terrorism in the northern West Bank, contrary to the Oslo Accords, and it presents itself as “weak” in order to avoid a direct confrontation with the terrorist groups.
Security officials in Israel say that the PA has enough military power to dismantle the terrorist groups, but not doing so is a political decision of the PA chairman.
The Bennett and Lapid governments did not put enough pressure on the PA chairman to act against the armed groups and accepted his explanations. In the city of Nablus, the terrorist groups have become a force that endangers the IDF forces and Israelis who want to visit Joseph’s Tomb, and also when they travel on the main roads in the Nablus area.
The Netanyahu government must clarify to the PA that it is obligated, according to the Oslo agreements, to dismantle the terrorist groups in the northern West Bank by all means, including the use of force. The PA claims that during 2022 it arrested about 60 security personnel who helped the armed groups. Yet this activity is not enough and the message of the new government in Israel to the Palestinian Authority must be clear and decisive.
Failure to dismantle the armed terrorist groups will encourage the establishment of new terrorist groups that will also try to carry out terrorist attacks inside Israel itself.