As opposed to the success of Israeli
security forces in thwarting – on a nightly basis – significant attacks on citizens by terror organizations, the IDF
and Shin Bet is struggling to identify Palestinians with no criminal affiliation who spontaneously choose to attack Israelis.
The Israeli security establishment has been attempting to deal with the populist terror surge in the West Bank, characterized by lone wolf terrorists who, for the most part, do not belong to a terrorist organization.
The men tasked with dealing with the phenomenon on the ground: four battalion commanders from Givati Brigade, who have recently finished long-term operations in several sectors of the West Bank (Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, and south Mt. Hebron).
In an interview to Ynet, the four say that "the solution to the phenomenon is attack and deter operations."
Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, on the left (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Lt. Col. Eli Gino (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit) In the background of the peace talks and the wave of terror attacks which accompanied the process – and with the possibility for severe escalation around the corner – the four battalion commanders insist that the Palestinians have a stake in maintaining the relative peace.
"They have much to lose," said Tzabar battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Liran Hajbi, who was responsible for the Ramallah sector. "Ramallah is blooming with hotels and shops, and businessman and diplomats are flocking to the city. Every new checkpoint hurts them tremendously."
Still, there was a security incident in Ramallah while Lt. Col. Hajbi's brigade was operating in the area, when a girl from the Psagot settlement was attacked by a Palestinian.
"We need to eliminate the motivation for these attacks," he said. "We can do this through aggressive disruption operations that'll create a deterrent… what we do in Jenin is felt in Hebron."
Rotem battalion commander, Lt. Col. Dani Oaken, was responsible for the Hebron
sector: "There is no profile for a lone world terrorist; you don't know who he is. It could be a female without a history of terror."
The defense establishment has yet to discover the identity of the gunman who killed Staff Sergeant Gal Kobi,
a subordinate of Oaken, who was shot dead near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. "We executed a wave of arrests after the attack," he said, "But we still don't have a significant lead."
Despite that setback, the Givati Brigade has had one major success. As first revealed by Ynet, Lt. Col. Hajbi's troops exposed advanced preparations by a well-funded terror cell which intended to kidnap an Israeli soldier.
During the course of the arrest of a wanted man in the Ramallah
area, the IDF discovered an underground tunnel near his home, in which the cell's members intended to hold an Israeli hostage.
The commander of Sayeret Givati Reconnaissance Battalion, Lt. Col. Eli Gino, has been forced to deal with a different phenomenon – permit-less Palestinians which have been moving in droves from south Mt. Hebron to the Beersheba and Lachish regions.
In an exceptional step, the Judea and Samaria Division decided to post the brigade's special units in the area to deal with the phenomenon, which has cost , in other regions, the lives of soldiers Tomer Hazan
and Eden Atias in two attacks committed by permit-less Palestinians.
Lt. Col. Dani Oaken (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit) Destroyed section of security barrier (Photo: Ariel Weiss)
"Some 6,000 permit-less Palestinians work (in the area) per month, and they do it because they need the work," explained Lt. Col. Gino. "A permit-less Palestinian we pick up is transferred to the police but he will be arrested only after the third time. Six or seven times we have shot at the legs of permit-less Palestinians who were destroying the security barrier."
"There are parts of the security fence that have been broken and remain without repairs despite our requests. It appears it's not a priority. Our area of operations is 30 km (18.6 miles), and for part of our operations we rely on drones."
According to Lt. Col. Gino, in-depth operations to minimize the phenomenon have led to the arrests of transport contractors and Palestinian human resources companies, which have turned the trend into an industry: "The fundamental solution could be the dispensation of work permits or the institutionalization of the legal process against them"
Another trend which has diminished in recent months but still caused headaches for the security establishment is 'price-tag' vandalism. There was no patience for those kinds of events, according to Givati's battalion commanders. "The mission was to protect the Jewish and Arab population," said Lt. Col. Oaken.
Lt. Col. Hajbi added: "The formula for dealing with the phenomenon entails the provision of a feeling of safety for both sides."
Shaked battalion commander, Lt. Col. Yehuda Vach, who was responsible for the Nablus region which included the Yitzhar settlement, claimed: "There are nationalistically motivated events, but they are marginal. We do not give them a pass. Whoever calls this 'price tag' and not nationalist crime is wearing blinders."
He added, "We have a clear understanding that the law also protects Palestinians. Just as we arrested 30 Palestinians for throwing Molotov cocktails at settlers' homes, we do not shy away from taking a stand against bullying by the other side."