All five murders perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists Thursday, Nov. 19, led back to the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. The writing on the wall was there in June 2014, when three Israeli teenage boys, Gil-Ad Sheer, Yakov Frankel and Eyal Yifrah were kidnapped at the Gush Etzion intersection near Hebron, and eventually found murdered.
Since the current wave of Palestinian terror erupted on Oct. 1, it has been obvious that the breeding ground was the town of Hebron and the district of Mount Hebron. This wave hit a deadly peak on Thursday. A Palestinian father of five from the village of Duma in the Hebron district, who a few days earlier received a permit to work in Tel Aviv, slashed to death two Israelis at a makeshift synagogue in southern Tel Aviv. Another terrorist from the village of Deir Samath near Hebron, slammed his car into Israeli vehicles and sprayed a traffic jam with gunfire on the highway to Hebron, killing an Israeli man, a tourist teenager and a Palestinian motorist. Seven others were injured.
The mother of one of the terrorists praised her son for bringing “pride and honor to the Palestinians and to Hebron.”
The controversy in Israeli military circles about whether the Palestinian terrorists have escalated the violence from rocks and knives to guns is hardly relevant, when the first attack of the current wave on Oct. 1 was a well-planned deadly shooting attack on an Israeli couple in a car. The 2015 violence would be more aptly dubbed “the Hebron Intifada.”
Hebron, 30 km south of Jerusalem, is the second largest West Bank city after Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority administration. Around 400,000 Palestinians, roughly a quarter of the West Bank Palestinian population, lives there and in the Mount Hebron towns of Dahariya, Halhoul, Yata, Dura. Samoa, Beit Umar, Bani Naim and Hirbat al-Aroub, as well as a far smaller Jewish population mainly in Hebron, Kiryat Arba and Gush Etzion. Just south of Mt.Hebron are the lands of small Bedouin tribes.
Periodic outbreaks of Arab pogroms against Jewish dwellers have been endemic to this region since 1929, but it was internal strife that ignited the current wave of violence which derives from four causes:
1. The Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah party in Ramallah are at daggers drawn with the Hamas leadership in Gaza. The Palestinian centers of government have been too preoccupied with their quarrel to keep touch with what was going on in Hebron.
2. This void of authority opened the door for the local families and clans, which ruled the district before central authority was established in Ramallah 21 years ago, to reinstate themselves in power, with the result that Israeli and Palestinian intelligence agencies alike have found the restored authoriy shut tight against their penetration.
Not only are external intrusions excluded, but the clans themselves are careful to keep their business private from rival clans and families.
3. To avoid admitting to its incapacity in this new situation, Israel’s security agency, the Shin Bet, continues to harp on the “lone wolf” theory to explain why the latest round of terror is unpredictable.
But the attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh on a Russian airliner and the multiple terrorist attacks in Paris show Islamist terror to have assumed a new, impenetrable guise, to fight which anti-terror agencies will have to adapt and come up with new methods.
The Shin Beit is finding it harder than before to procure intelligence not just in Hebron but also from the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This difficulty is shared by Jordanian intelligence, which until not long ago maintained a broad net of highly professional agents and informers in the Palestinian community.
4. In the current situation, Hebron is swinging out of control as athe spearhead of the current wave of Palestinian terror, and appears poised to evolve into a new Palestinian bloc to contest Ramallah for the national leadership.
5. Israel’s failure to stem their campaign of terror has given Hebron’s clan chiefs enhanced standing in the Palestinian community at large and even in broader circles of the Arab world.
debkafile’s intelligence experts offer five additional points for urgent consideration:
a) Israeli intelligence eavesdroppers’ access to internal communications among terrorist groups is disappearing since landlines began to be replaced by speech and video applications on the Internet and cell phones.
b) Hebron is close to being a boom town economically. Informants who could once be bought for small sums of tens or hundreds of shekels are longer in the market for providing inside information.
c) The town and its services have become less dependent on Israeli institutions.
d) Hebron’s growing radical religious, ethnic and social seclusion behind its walls reduces normal day-to-day contacts with outsiders and therefore makes it harder to penetrate.
e) The Shin Bet and other Israeli intelligence agencies are increasingly prone to dependence on digital sources of information, instead of relying on human sources. They are therefore losing the edge they once had over other Western anti-terror agencies, who are incapacitated by an inability to penetrate the tightly-shut Islamic terror organizations.
The spate of terror emanating from Hebron this week should serve as a red alert to Israeli intelligence to pull up their socks and dust off the traditional, highly successful anti-terror combat methods which served them so well for vanquishing former waves of Palestinian terror.