Three dates have emerged as the landmarks of a new outbreak of armed Palestinian violence against Israel: On Aug. 30, an army-police squad, on a routine operation for rounding up terrorist suspects, was waylaid in the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank by fierce gangs armed with rocks, iron bars and firebombs. Then, on Sept. 13, an Israeli car was stoned in Jerusalem, killing the driver Alexander Levlovitch, 64. He was driving home on New Year’s Eve.
Palestinian rocks against Israeli cars are part of the regular landscape on roads in and outside Jerusalem, but this time it ended in murder.
The next day, the 14th, gangs of rampaging Palestinian youths fought Israeli police guards on Temple Mount for control of the Al Aqsa Mosque doors with rocks, blocks of concrete and iron bars, which had been hoarded inside the mosque.
debkafile’s counterterrorism analysts diagnose these and allied events as the opening shots of a Palestinian uprising against Israel under a different guise. Security forces are beginning to talk about “armed localized terror.”
Its most prominent features are the collaboration for ad hoc operations betwen two or more Palestinian rival groups, and their localized nature. They tend to be planned in advance for a specific arnea.
The collaborators in the Jenin outbreak were Hamas and Islamic Jihad. For the New Year attacks, Fatah (whose leader is Mahmoud Abbas) and Hamas joined hands.
They shared five objectives:
1. To sabotage Jewish celebration of the New Year festival in Jerusalem.
2. To ratchet up the level of Palestinian clashes with Israeli security forces by the use of firebombs and other explosive devices.
3. To establish a dominant presence on Temple Mount, divided it among the various Palestinian factions.
4. To bar Jewish access to the Temple Mount compound, revered as the site of the Jewish Temples.
5. To protest Israel’s decision to outlaw the Muribitun and Muribitath gangs, established by radical Muslim groups to keep Jews out of the Temple Mount compound – if necessary by force.
Over the festival, two Jewish youths were chased and attacked at the site and alleys leading to it.
6. To warn Jordan’s King Abdullah that the Palestinians are united against his claim to restore Hashemite Muslim custodianship over Temple Mount and Al Aqsa. They viewed the king’s plan to double the number of sentries posted at the site by the Muslim Waqf religious administration, which acts in Jordan’s name on Temple Mount, as part of the king’s takeover effort.
These Palestinian extremists are satisfied with having chalked up several gains from their new aggressive strategy against Israel:
a) Fatah and Hamas worked well together in their first operation after years of fighting each other. Their collaboration defied and further undermined the waning influence of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
b) One Israeli was killed.
Israel’s security services can claim a major success. A solid tip-off reaching the Shin Bet internal security service exposed the address of an apartment in the Old City of Jerusalem where pipe bombs were being assembled. A timely raid on Sept. 13, and the seizure of these improvised though deadly weapons averted a major disaster and mass casualties – possibly even at the Western Wall.
But in intelligence work, no single success can promise that every terror plot is foiled in the future too.
Israeli strategists, like their opposite numbers in Amman, are wracking their brains for effective penalties and deterrents to stem the rising spiral of Palestinian violence.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources discern in the new escalation certain characteristics common to the clashes seen in Arab countries in recent years between opposing populations and religious groups.
Therefore, the Palestinian terror in and around Jerusalem, spilling over from last weekend, is likely to spread to other parts of the country, also encompassing Judea and Samaria, or even igniting parts of the Israeli Arab communities in solidarity with their Palestinian kin. We may be on the brink of a full-blown intifada (uprising.),
Conscious of the peril, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting for Tuesday night, Sept. 15, to be attended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilead Erdan, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Transportation Minister, Israel Katz, the Attorney General and security services chiefs.
Our sources are skeptical about this meeting producing measures for stemming the rising tide of Palestinian terror. Netanyahu’s plan to apply conventional law and order measures, such new legislation for raising the minimal jail sentence for stone-throwers, comes too late. The stone-throwers have already turned to bombs.
Long jail sentences were taken out of the government’s hands as an effective deterrent for terror when, on June 29, a Palestinian suspect won his release from administrative detention by staging a long hunger strike. The Israeli government folded under the pressure, exposing the weakness of its legal and judicial systems as tools against terrorism.
Then, on Aug. 11,Netanyahu and Ya’alon told Israeli soldiers facing Palestinian aggression that henceforth they were only allowed to fire in the air, unless they faced imminent threat to their lives.
This order was issued to cut down on the number of dead terrorists and the negative statistics in world media. But in the arenas of confrontation, the Palestinians, no longer afraid of death or injury, were encouraged to escalate their assaults and reach the current new threshold of confrontation.