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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Terror Attacks Escalate in West Bank, Gaza Strip

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A deadly car-ramming in the West Bank. An Israeli civilian stabbed to death in Jerusalem. IDF soldiers targeted along the Gaza Strip border. Retaliatory air strikes and artillery fire on Hamas targets.

The increase in violence once again raises the specter of another conflict erupting between Israel and Hamas as the weather warms up and hostilities flare.

Adiel Kolman, a 32-year-old father of four from the Kochav Hashachar West Bank Jewish community, was murdered in the Old City on Sunday, March 18, the third Israeli killed in a terror attack that weekend. The perpetrator, named as 28-year-old Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel from the Palestinian town of Aqraba, had entered Jerusalem using a five-day permit, issued by the Israeli army, enabling him to seek out job opportunities.

The attack came 48 hours after two soldiers were killed outside the Mevo Dotan Jewish community in the northern West Bank when a Palestinian man slammed his car into them, also injuring two others soldiers.

Security forces caught the attacker. His family said he had no known ties to a terrorist group. Still, Hamas praised the attack.

Experts agree that the developments mark a dangerous escalation…Hamas may be encouraging terror attacks in and from the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired Israeli brigadier general, former senior IDF intelligence official and Middle East expert at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told The Media Line he thinks the increased violence is being incited by Palestinian leaders who aim to “make the impression that [President Donald] Trump’s moves did not go without a reaction.”

Hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza rioted on March 16 in a “day of rage” marking 100 days since the White House’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. More protests are expected leading up to the U.S. embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary in May.

The violent demonstrations continued March 17 in the Gaza Strip, followed by the detonation of an improvised explosive device that targeted IDF troops near the border fence. There were no reports of injuries or damage, but it was the third such attack along the same stretch of the frontier in a week.

The IDF responded with artillery fire and air strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army also destroyed two Hamas tunnels. One of the tunnels stretched from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip into the Eshkol Regional Council near the Kerem Shalom kibbutz.

“As part of the operational, intelligence and technological efforts to locate and neutralize terror tunnels, which has been ongoing since Operation ‘Protective Edge’ [the 2014 war with Hamas] and has been intensified in the past six months, the attempt to renew an old terror tunnel made by the Hamas terror organization was identified at an early phase,” an IDF press release sent to The Media Line read. It stated that the tunnel did not pose a threat to residents of the area.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in a statement on March 18 that Israel’s policy was to “act firmly against any attempt to [harm] us and to systematically eliminate the infrastructure of the terrorist tunnels. It’s time for the international community to recognize the financial aid to Gaza is buried underground.”

Likewise, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted, “I recommend that Hamas invest the money in the welfare of the residents of Gaza because, by the end of the year, there will be not one tunnel.”

Hamas sought to downplay the IDF’s actions, with a spokesman for the terror group’s armed wing contending that the tunnel targeted by Israel was no longer in use.

Nevertheless, experts agree that the developments mark a dangerous escalation.

Kuperwasser said Hamas may be encouraging terror attacks in and from the West Bank and Jerusalem, while the Palestinian Authority is promoting attacks that do not involve the use of firearms and explosives.

“It is very difficult to predict if [the Palestinians] are going to be successful in reversing this trend,” Kuperwasser said. “In the past, there were cases in which terror attacks succeeded and things spiraled out of control.”

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