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The Phenomenon of Lone Palestinian Terrorists

 
Filed under: Palestinians, Terrorism

The Phenomenon of Lone Palestinian Terrorists
(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
  • There is a growing concern in Israel’s security establishment regarding the increase in terrorism and the emergence of lone terrorists in light of Hamas and Islamic Jihad threats.
  • Hamas may be trying to ride the latest wave of attacks to expand it into a new “knife intifada” like the one perpetrated in 2015.
  • Palestinian lawyer Ziad Abu Ziyad challenged Palestinian leaders: “Where is your national resistance plan? How long will our children and youth remain like sheep without a shepherd? Why do you cheer and glorify the useless individual actions to cover up your leadership’s helplessness?”

Israel is preparing for the possibility of a new wave of lone terrorism that could emulate the “knife intifada” that broke out in September 2015. Police forces in Jerusalem have been reinforced, and IDF units in the West Bank are on the alert. After assessing the situation, the IDF decided not to reinforce the forces in Judea and Samaria, except at the crossing posts following the vehicular attack at the Te’enim checkpoint in Samaria on December 6, 2021.

Security sources say Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip are trying to ride the success of recent attacks and ignite the tension to encourage more lone terrorists to carry out attacks.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s announcement on December 6, 2021, should be seen as a possible strategy to renew the escalation on the Gaza border because of the impasse in the implementation of the nonviolent understandings and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, they are critical of Egypt, the primary mediator between Hamas and Israel.

The main task of Israel’s security forces these days is to halt the phenomenon of lone terrorists while stopping the spread of animosity.

Concerned about “Copycats”

The IDF is alarmed by the imitation phenomenon of lone terrorists, mainly the mimicking of knife and vehicular attacks. Moreover, in recent weeks, the incitement on social media has increased, which has the most significant impact on the younger Palestinian generation, especially when they view the live action in east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

In November, there were three terrorist attacks: a stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem in which two Border Police soldiers were wounded; a shooting attack by Hamas terrorist and cleric Fadi Abu Shahidam in which an Israeli civilian was murdered; and a stabbing attack in Jaffa in which a civilian was seriously wounded.

Fadi Abu Shkhaidem with his submachine gun in Jerusalem’s Old City
Fadi Abu Shkhaidem with his submachine gun in Jerusalem’s Old City

So far, in the early days of December, there were two attacks: a stabbing at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem in which an Israeli civilian was seriously injured and another vehicular attack at the Te’enim crossing in Samaria in which an Israeli security guard was seriously injured. In all cases, the terrorists were killed.

Ramming attack at Te’enim checkpoint, December 6, 2021
Ramming attack at Te’enim checkpoint, December 6, 2021 (Defense Ministry Crossing Authority)

Hamas is trying to re-launch terror inside Israel and the West Bank after it suffered a severe blow: in recent months, the Israel Security Agency arrested an extensive network of dozens of Hamas terrorists who planned a series of attacks in Israel and the Judea and Samaria area. Weapons and explosive belts intended for suicide bombings were captured.

This terrorist activity in Jerusalem and the West Bank is directed from the Gaza Strip, Turkey, and Lebanon through Hamas’ “West Bank headquarters.” The mastermind is Saleh al-Arouri, the head of Hamas’ military-terrorist wing in the West Bank.

Khamenei, Arouri, Salah, and Abu Marzouk
Hamas commander Salah al-Arouri meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei in July 2019.
(Khamenei’s office)

Hamas is attempting to carry out a “showcase” assault that will serve as a role model and fuel for the fire that has already begun in east Jerusalem.

Hamas estimates that Israel is struggling to cope with the phenomenon of lone terrorists. Their attacks occur spontaneously and often in seemingly undirected waves. Hamas, therefore, tries to ride each wave as soon as it is detected and before it fades. For Hamas and other terrorist groups, the main “enemy” of the spectacle of a handful of terrorists is the security coordination between Israel’s security forces and the PA security services.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas knows that he holds a double-edged sword that could undermine his rule. So, while his prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, attacks Israel for killing the young terrorists (“cold-blooded murder”), Abbas, in recent days, has changed direction and ordered his security forces to stop the stabbings and end the incitement.

The phenomenon of lone terrorists is attributed mainly to young Palestinians who continue to feed on the incitement on Palestinian social networks and media.

Many of the young terrorists are frustrated. They come from families living in difficult economic situations. They seek to become “heroes” in the Palestinian society that nurtures the legend of “martyrs.”

Young Palestinians used to announce their deadly intentions on social media or in suicide videos. However, today, they typically take precautions and do not express their homicidal/suicidal intentions for fear that Israeli or PA security forces will monitor and thwart their mission.

Palestinian Soul-Searching

Within Palestinian society, there are also manifestations of soul-searching. Following the recent stabbing attack of an ultra-Orthodox Jew at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem that resulted in the shooting of terrorist Muhammad Salima from the village of Salfit in Samaria, a veteran Palestinian journalist spoke out. 

Ziad Abu Ziyad, a senior Fatah journalist in east Jerusalem, published an op-ed in the al-Quds newspaper on Dec. 5, 2021, in which he strongly criticized the Palestinian leadership:1

“What happened yesterday [editor’s note: the shooting of a terrorist] is a murder in every sense of the word, and it is an episode in the cold-blooded killing series that is being practiced against our children and youth.”

“[But] there is another question that we have to face with courage, honesty, and responsibility: who sent Mohammed Salima to do what he did if there is no one who sent him who is responsible for his actions?”

“From time to time, we lose the flowers of our young men and women, children in the age of roses. Although the killing is in cold blood by the Israeli police, border guards, and army, it does not absolve us of responsibility. The attacks by [Palestinian] individuals are useless spilling of blood without purpose. What is the result of their deaths on the way to ending the occupation?”

“These killings will not bring us independence and an end to the occupation, as the killing they [Israeli forces] do to our children, which could be stopped, are useless and will not bring them security. Their killings will lead to nothing more than encouraging the will to retaliate and we will enter a vicious cycle of mutual killing.”

Ziad Abu Ziad ended his article by admitting that the lone attacks were useless to the Palestinian struggle:

“Where is the Palestinian leadership that bears responsibility for managing the struggle against the occupation? I do not mean only those who sit in Ramallah or Gaza, but all the leaders of the factions and those who speak for the Palestinian people and their fate. Where are you? Where is your national resistance plan? How long will our children and youth remain like sheep without a shepherd? Why do you cheer and glorify useless individual actions to cover up your leadership helplessness?”

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