Of the three violent Palestinian uprisings (intifadas) unleashed against Israel, the first became known as “the Unified Command” which under united PLO leadership lasted 3-5 years. Its murderous outrages came close to disrupting life in the country and only died down after Israel’s military and Shin Bet finally broke up the united command. The Second Intifada was shorter – September 2015 to October 2016 – and was known as the Intifada of the Knives. It was beaten down after the IDF sequestered Yasser Arafat in his quarters in Ramallah and retook the main Palestinian towns on the West Bank.
The third intifada appearing now at its outset is already known as the Intifada of the Guns. This time, no chain of command or Palestinian leadership is discerned behind the action – only lone killers with guns operating solo. These killers have progressed from “Carlos” – the fake Carl Gustav rifles cobbled together in Palestinian workshops, and now shoot from regulation army-issue weapons.
Israel’s intelligence bodies are struggling to get a handle on these lone killers, who are hard to identify and predict. One difficulty is the breakdown in recent months of the Palestinian Authority’s control of Palestinian cities under dire economic distress. The most restive West Bank towns have descended into chaos after PA security forces withdrew. Inflation in Palestinian communities is running at 30pc and unemployment has hit 40pc. Roaming the streets are frustrated, jobless youths, brought up hate Israel, who vent their hopelessness against the despised Palestinian Authority and its head Mahmud Abbas. In former outbreaks, social media were important engines for driving and coordinating terrorist operations against Israel. This time round, young Palestinian gunmen seem to require no centralizing medium before going out on their killing sprees.
After years of combating the wave of Palestinian terror in Judea and Samaria, the domestic security Shin Bet has in past months chalked up major successes in pinning down and rounding up perpetrators and pre-empting the hundreds of attempted attacks orchestrated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Its long arm also reached their masterminds in Qatar, Malaysia and Turkey. But the young shooters operating today do not defer to Hamas or any other command center. They operate singlehanded.
Standard counter-terror intelligence methods will have to be freshly adapted to the new menace. Until they are, it is feared that out-of-control, armed Palestinian youths may press ahead with their Intifada of the Guns. Jewish areas in East Jerusalem are most easily accessible since they adjoin Palestinian suburbs – making Neve Yaacov and Siluan tempting targets. . In the first, Friday night, 7 Israelis were shot at point blank range outside their synagogue and three badly hurt, before the killer was shot dead by the police. In the second, on Saturday, a paratroop officer was wounded with his father, but succeeded in disabling the 13-year old gunman. But the new outbreak may go farther afield before it is subdued.
The new government’s first security cabinet meeting, called by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, Jan 28, is ruled by new faces who must act fast to restore calm. New Defense Minister Yoav Galant, who flew home from the US to attend the meeting; Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has just taken over his first ministerial post at National Security, which covers the police and border guard units; Lt. Gen. Herzi Levi, who has just taken the post of Israel Defense Forces chief of staff; and Tzachi Hanegbi as the newly-appointed national security adviser. Meanwhile, massive police and military reinforcements ae pouring into flashpoint areas.