Analysis: Shooting spree in Bnei Brak, unlike attacks in Be’er Sheva and Hadera, was organized by a terror cell, and while security forces focus their offensive on thwarting terror units, perimeter fence between Israel and West Bank remains breached

The shooting spree in Bnei Brak last week, which claimed the lives of five people, signals a possible transition from the so-called “lone wolf” terror attacks, which are a result of online incitement, to organized terrorism.

The attack in Be’er Sheva a week prior was carried out by a terrorist with Israeli citizenship, similar to the the deadly attack in Hadera days later, which involved two Israeli Arabs and Umm al-Fahm residents.

תיעוד מפעילות צה"ל בחטמ"ר מנשה במהלך השבוע
IDF conducts anti-terror operation in Jenin (Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit)


However, the attack in Bnei Brak, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad members who were killed early Saturday by Israel’s elite Yamam Border Police force – thanks to Shin Bet’s intelligence – were all Palestinians from the Jenin area in the West Bank.

The Islamic Jihad has since threatened to avenge the death of its members. On the one hand, it makes the conflict more direct and violent, because Israel now faces an organized and armed enemy. On the other, a known enemy would also likely produce intelligence leaks, which raises the likelihood that the attack will be thwarted, just like the one on Saturday.

The IDF has admitted there was no evidence that the neutralized terror cell planned an immediate attack, but its members drove in cars with Israeli license plates, recorded goodbye videos, and were equipped with large amounts of weapons, including hand grenades.

Israel’s initial plan was to arrest the three, but when their vehicle encountered the terrorist’s car, there could not have been a different outcome other than elimination.

פעילות מבצעית בג'נין
The Saturday operation in which an Islamic Jihad squad was eliminated


The incident ended with three dead terrorists, but it came with a heavy price.
Lieut.-Col. S., a commander in the elite Yamam unit was seriously wounded. He is one of the most important commanders in the unit, as he led countless counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank.

His injury is a serious blow to the best counterterrorist unit in Israel (and maybe in the world), but rest assured, Yamam will find a suitable replacement.
The injury is also a reminder of how important is the job of his unit – along with the IDF and the Shin Bet.

One of the questions that were raised after the incident is why the terror cell wasn’t eliminated from the air by Israel’s Air Force just like it happens in the Gaza Strip. The answer is that such an operation hasn’t been carried out in the West Bank area since the Second Intifada, which began over two decades ago.

Security officials said that even a precise airstrike could have led to further escalation in the West Bank, and to even more organized terrorism. But, in light of the heavy price Israel had to pay, it raises the question of whether this approach needs to be re-examined.

תיעוד מפעילות צה"ל בחטמ"ר מנשה במהלך השבוע
IDF’s daylight raid in Jenin (Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit)


This action, as well as the rare, broad daylight IDF raid in Jenin last week, show a more aggressive approach by Israel against known terror infrastructures.

But alongside a strong offensive, the Jewish state also needs a strong defense, and that is where the problem lies. Apart from the intelligence problems and the difficulty to locate terrorists before they execute a terror attack, Israel faces a major problem with the partition fence separating Israel from the West Bank, which has for a while had breaches and gaps in it that no one seems to want to fix.

On Friday, I accompanied IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi for a tour along the fence, and what we saw was extremely worrying. The fence has hundreds of gaps, through which thousands of Palestinians enter each day to work in Israel.

According to estimation, some 30,000 Palestinians enter illegally each day, in addition to 150,000 who have work permits. Most of them are Palestinians who didn’t receive entry permits, but there are also many workers who simply don’t wish to wait in huge lines at official checkpoints for a clearance to enter.
Among them, quite easily, could be the next terrorist.

תיעוד מפעילות צה"ל בחטמ"ר מנשה במהלך השבוע
IDF activity at the West Bank region (Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit)


In order to prevent infiltrations, the IDF added an extra 12 battalions to the West Bank area. And currently, hundreds of soldiers guard the fence and reinforce strategic points. Many soldiers were snatched from training for this task, some from elite IDF units, to stand under the scorching sun just to guard a hole in the fence.

During our tour, Deputy Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi estimated that some 100 kilometers (62 miles) of fence require a rebuild with newer infrastructures and technology measures to prevent sabotage. This project is expected to cost some NIS 1 billion, and it will take a year to complete.

Kochavi now has to decide when to dismiss the extra forces guarding the fence because this situation cannot last for a whole year, since it will paralyze the military. For now, the forces are expected to guard the fence for at least two months.

At some point during our tour, we reached the point in the fence from where the Bnei Brak terrorist Diaa Hamarsheh entered Israel, but it wasn’t through a breach in the fence. He passed via an agricultural gate, which was locked, and he had assistance in breaking the lock, which is quite a complicated task.

תיעוד מפעילות צה"ל בחטמ"ר מנשה במהלך השבוע
IDF soldiers patrol the West Bank fence (Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit)


“I’m responsible for repairing the fence breaches, but until that is done, there are forces all along it, and I demand from you, the commanders, that no terrorist should pass from your sector,” said Kochavi.

As far as the chief of staff is concerned, the talk of war is out of proportion. “There is a flood of inspired attacks and it can motivate the terrorists to execute even more attacks. The goal right now is to cut off this inspiration wave,” he said.

After the fence tour, the chief of staff continued to investigate the successful raid in Jenin. “The current terror wave won’t end with a statement of a ceasefire like with Hamas in Gaza. We will have to be vigilant and on alert over a period of time,” the IDF chief of staff said.

As reported by Ynetnews