BICOM Briefing: ‘Lone wolf’ terror attacks

  • ‘Lone wolf’ attacks by individual Palestinians against Israeli civilians and soldiers, with no established link to terror organisations, have been on the rise.
  • A similar series of ‘lone wolf’ attacks took place late last year, the most high profile was the attack on a Synagogue in Har Nof in Jerusalem, which killed four people and injured eight others.
  • Hamas have officially praised attacks on Israeli civilians and the Israeli government has long accused the Palestinian Authority of “fanning the flames” of incitement through its official channels.
  • In the last three weeks alone, the IDF has recorded over 500 terror related incidents, including stabbing, rock throwing towards ISraeli vehicles, IDF troops and towns, Molotov cocktails throwing, riots and arson attacks.
  • The Shin Bet claims to have prevented 111 terror attacks, including 17 attempted suicide bombings in 2015.

‘Lone Wolf’ terror attacks

  • The recent spate of attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets is not thought to be the work of organised terror groups. However, during the past several months, there have been numerous incidents of Palestinian individuals, seemingly of their own accord, attacking Israeli civilians and servicemen with vehicles and knives:
    • On 19/08/2015 an IDF soldier was moderately injured when an explosive device was detonated at an army checkpoint in the West Bank south of Jerusalem. Earlier that day, a father and his two-year-old daughter were both lightly injured after rocks were hurled at their car on the 443 highway, near Atarot, and shattered the windscreen.
    • On 17/08/2015 a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli border policeman at the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank; he was subsequently shot dead. The attacker, named as 25-year-old Mahmad Amsha from near Jenin, is reported to have approached border policemen manning a checkpoint and requested water as he felt unwell. When he was asked to further approach the servicemen, Amsha produced a knife and attacked them.
    • On 15/08/2015 at an IDF checkpoint near Beit Oron on the 443 highway, between Modi’in and Jerusalem, Mahmoud Nasim Yousef Gumhouriyya asked a soldier for water. While the soldier turned to comply with the request, he was stabbed in the upper body. Gumhouriyya was shot by another soldier and apprehended. That evening, a border policeman was stabbed at a checkpoint near Nablus in the direction of the Palestinian village of Huwara. The attacker, 16-year-old Rafik Kamal al-Taj, apparently approached a group of servicemen before stabbing one of them in the back. He was quickly and fatally shot by another border policeman.
    • On 06/08/2015, near the Shiloh junction in the West Bank, a Palestinian driver deliberately ran down and injured three Israeli soldiers. A fourth soldier opened fire and wounded the terrorist.
    • On 02/07/2015, in Hebron, Border Police officers prevented a knife attack. A 19-year-old Palestinian man approached them in a suspicious manner and was ordered to stop. When asked from a safe distance to show officers what he was carrying, he revealed a large knife. On questioning, he admitted that he had intended to stab a soldier, policeman or an Israeli civilian.
    • On 29/06/2015 four Israeli men in their 20s were injured, one seriously after the car they were travelling in came under gunfire in the West Bank. One of those, Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, later died of his wounds.
    • On 14/05/2015 four Israelis were wounded when a Palestinian man rammed a car into passengers waiting at a bus stop in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank.
    • On 15/04/2015, 37-year-old Khaled Koutineh from Anata, ploughed his car into waiting commuters at the French Hill junction in north eastern Jerusalem. 25-year-old Shalom Cherki and a woman in her 20s, Shira Klein, were both seriously injured and evacuated to a Jerusalem hospital. Cherki died hours later having suffered severe head trauma and Klein remains in a serious condition.
    • On 08/04/2015 two Israeli soldiers were injured, one seriously, when a Palestinian man stabbed them in the West Bank, near the settlement of Ma’ale Levona before being shot dead by one of his victims.
  • In late 2014 there was a similar wave of ‘lone wolf’ terror attacks in and around Jerusalem, the most notable of which was the attack on a Synagogue in Har Nof in Jerusalem, which killed four people and injured eight others.

How is Israel Responding?

  • Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has promised decisive action, claiming that, “The fight against Palestinian terrorism requires determination and an iron fist … We do not intend to give up on this fight.”
  • Israeli security services are facing an increasing challenge in responding and preventing ‘lone wolf’ attacks. Their spontaneity and use of cars or knifes to carry out the attacks making intelligence gathering and monitoring more difficult.
  • Despite these difficulties, Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, has remained vigilant to the threats it faces and claims to have prevented a total of 111 terror attacks in 2015, including 17 suicide bombings.

What role are Palestinian groups playing?

  • While the attacks are ‘lone wolf’ attacks, rather than organised by specific terror organisations, Hamas praised one of the attacks as “a natural and worthy response to Israel’s crimes against our people and children” and encouraged further violence against Israelis.
  • Israeli officials have repeatedly complained about Palestinian officials and groups, including Fatah, inciting violence against Israelis and Jews, through official media channels.
  • Moreover, Israeli leaders have consistently pointed the finger of responsibility at incitement by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Last year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinians to “use any means” to prevent Jews from “desecrating the Temple Mount” in Jerusalem’s Old City.

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