Iran funding Hamas efforts to foment border violence, Shin Bet says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran funding Hamas efforts to foment border violence, Shin Bet says

Iran is funding Hamas’s efforts to promote violence and attacks against Israel under the cover of mass demonstrations at the border, the Shin Bet security service says in a statement.

Hamas has warned its members to stay away from the security fence during Gaza’s mass protests, lest they get shot, while actively encouraging Palestinian civilians — particularly children and teens — to approach the border, the Shin Bet adds, citing findings from a number of interrogations.

Palestinian protesters amid tear gas and smoke billowing from burning tires, east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/ Mohammed Abed)

“There is a prohibition for Hamas operatives to approach the border, from a fear that they will be killed or captured by IDF troops, unless the security fence falls and then they must enter, armed, into Israel under the cover of the masses and carry out terror attacks,” the statement says.

As anniversaries loom, Palestinian ‘lone wolf’ attacks likely to gain traction

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

As anniversaries loom, Palestinian ‘lone wolf’ attacks likely to gain traction

Upcoming Land Day and Nakba Day protests set stage for violence engineered by Hamas from Gaza and abroad

Avi Issacharoff
Palestinians wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

Palestinians wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

The data available to Israel’s security establishment regarding the thwarting of so-called Palestinian “lone wolf attacks” is telling.

In 2017 alone, more than 1,300 such attacks —  those without the support or operational backing of any terror group — were prevented. This marked a significant decline as compared to 2016, when more than 2,200 lone-wolf attacks were foiled.

But this year’s figures already show a persistent trend, with some 200 lone wolf attacks attempted in the past two months alone.

And while the data suggests the motivation among young Palestinians to carry out such attacks is on the decline, Friday’s attack demonstrated that it is still very much present, and liable to be lethal.

According to the Shin Bet security service, the interrogation of the car-rammer Ala Qabha along with other findings indicate it was a nationalistically motivated attack.

Israeli soldiers inspect a car at the scene where two Israeli soldiers were killed and another two were injured in a car-ramming terror attack near Mevo Dotan, in the West Bank, March 16, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Qabha, who was released from Israeli prison just under a year ago, carried out the attack on the 100-day anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a day in which several Palestinian terror organizations — led by Hamas — sought to exact a price in blood.

Unfortunately, the coming months have no shortage of such anniversaries, and the motivation among Palestinians to carry out terror attacks will only increase.

At the end of this month, huge protests are being planned for “Land Day” under the theme of “processions of the great return,” which will likely feature Palestinians storming the West Bank security barrier as well as Israel’s border with Gaza.

These protests will be followed by similar events to commemorate Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day — how Palestinians refer to Israel’s Independence Day — which falls around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan this year.

On top of all of these “festive” occasions, there are additional conditions in place that will surely increase motivation for attacks on the Palestinian side, especially among its youth: the lack of a diplomatic horizon, the dearth of hope, the leadership crisis on the Palestinian side, Israeli settlement construction, and the failure of the internal Palestinian reconciliation process.

Each of these conditions have been seen to amplify Palestinian despair.

Many times, however, this despair leads — as we have seen in recent years — to apathy. Accordingly, most West Bank Palestinians have largely remained in their homes, even during the most tense commemoration days.

On the other hand, this despair also motivates quite a few young Palestinians to want to carry out terror attacks: car-rammings, stabbings, shootings. And while obtaining the improvised weapons used in these attacks is not as easy as it used to be, there are still enough weapons in the West Bank to carry out shootings, without any terrorist organizational backing.

Hamas attempts to step up attacks

Along with these lone wolf attacks, one must add the organized effort — primarily from Hamas — to ignite the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has maintained its security coordination with Israel and has continued to prevent a considerable amount of attacks.

PA security forces have taken a number of steps in recent years to prevent harm to Israelis, while simultaneously targeting sources of funding from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, head of the terror cell who shot dead Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the West Bank on January 9 (Twitter)

However, Hamas, along with other terror groups, has continued in their efforts to carry out more organized, “classic” terror attacks.

For this purpose, Hamas has been operating from two bridgeheads.

One from Gaza, where the ironically labeled “West Bank Headquarters” operates the group’s terror infrastructure east of the Green Line. The branch is made up largely of former security prisoners who were deported to Gaza after being freed in the swap for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

Ahmed Jarrar, the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach near the Havat Gilad outpost in the northern West Bank in January, received financial assistance from this very headquarters.

The second branch, the “West Bank Office,” operates with an identical goal and is similarly run by former security prisoners released in the Shalit exchange. However, these past convicts were deported abroad and operate from capitals such as Istanbul.

Together, the two branches and the looming anniversaries create an unstable environment for the next few months in our region, to say the least.

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Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

Sheik Hassan Yousef detained on suspicion of ‘promoting’ the terror group’s activities amid spike in violence, Shin Bet says

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Israeli troops, in raids across the West Bank overnight Tuesday, arrested 32 Palestinians for suspected involvement in terror activities and violent rioting, as well as a senior Hamas figure, security forces said.

Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank and one of the group’s founding members, was arrested in Ramallah, the Shin Bet security service said.

He is suspected of “involvement in promoting and advancing Hamas’s activities in the West Bank,” it confirmed in a statement after Palestinian media broke news of the arrest.

Yousef was recently released from administrative detention, and has been arrested many times in recent years. Earlier this week, he called for a violent response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A Palestinian protester pulls a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Since Trump announced his decision last Wednesday, the West Bank has seen daily protests that have at time devolved into clashes.

Hamas last week called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel over the US decision, urging Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, and allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence. Its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Friday praised the “blessed intifada,” urged the liberation of Jerusalem, and made plain the group was seeking to intensify violence against Israel.

In his address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The final status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern neighborhoods of the city as their future capital.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but rejected by the international community.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

Alongside the clashes in the West Bank, recent days have seen an escalation in violence around Gaza, where Yousef’s Hamas group holds sway.

In the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, the Israeli Air Force early Wednesday morning struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire hours earlier.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip. It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks.

During the overnight raids, IDF medics treated an elderly Palestinian woman who had a heart attack in the village of al-Zubeidat, near Jericho, but eventually pronounced her dead after their efforts failed.

The IDF denied implications made by Palestinian media that the woman’s heart attack was triggered by stun grenades thrown by Israeli troops after residents threw rocks at them. An army official said the two incidents were unrelated, happening at significantly different times during the night.

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21 Year Old Female British Student Stabbed To Death In Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A British exchange student was fatally stabbed Friday by a Palestinian attacker just steps from Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Jews and Christians gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, officials said.

Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends Monday in Israel; and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday. The attack took place inside a car of the city’s light-rail train near the entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter.

The woman identified as Hannah Bladon, 21, was treated for stab wounds in a hospital and later died, police said.

Bladon was an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and she arrived in Israel in January to spend a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the latter said in a statement.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency named the suspected attacker as 57-year-old Jamal Tamimi from East Jerusalem, a mostly Arab area. They said he had mental health issues and had attempted suicide this year while hospitalized. Tamimi was arrested at the scene, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the attack to other violent acts around the world in recent weeks. “Radical Islam strikes at the capitals of the world and, unfortunately, terrorism has hit the capital of Israel — Jerusalem,” he wrote on Facebook.

Israel considers Jerusalem its united capital, and all of its official offices are based there. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.

Friday’s killing is the latest in a spate of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians over the past 18 months.

Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy-handed in response to the attacks, which have left nearly 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers.

The targeted stabbings and other attacks started in October 2015 with almost daily assaults. Incidents slowed in mid-2016 and, with Israeli forces stepping up their response, fatal attacks are now rare.

The violence contrasts with the first and second intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, which were centrally organized and included mass unrest.