Two urgent issues are currently on the mind of Israel’s national security establishment, besides Iran’s nuclear program: Escalation along the Gaza border with severe violence and renewed use of explosive devices in the area, which could shift the equation in dealing with Israel’s security situation, specifically against terrorism in the West Bank.
Last week, two unusual events took place that indicated further escalation is afoot. The first is the planting of a powerful IED in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park, the ultimate purpose of which is not yet clear at this stage. The second is Palestinian riots along the Gaza border, which led the IDF to carry out a drone strike on a Hamas post.
IEDs detonating within Israel are becoming a major concern for security officials. The investigation into the Yarkon Park blast is still ongoing. Shin Bet investigators are set to question two suspects, arrested near Ramle, on suspicion of planting the bomb. The focus of the interrogation will be to determine the intended objectives of the attack.
Were they tasked with planting the device, and if so, by whom? Was it a local initiative? Did the two suspects have any accomplices? The two suspects are holding Israeli identity cards and work in Israel regularly.
The presence of explosive devices within Israel highlights a change in the tactics of terrorism, transitioning from cold weapons to firearms and now to explosives. It also underscores Israel's strategic challenge at its borders.
Along the eastern border with Jordan, security forces routinely seize weapons and ammunition almost daily. Estimates suggest that numerous smuggling attempts go undetected.
For years, the eastern border was overlooked. However, over the past two years, the IDF, Shin Bet and police have ramped up intelligence gathering and anti-smuggling operations, leading to a rise in successful seizures of weapon caches. Despite these efforts, smuggling will persist until the border is completely secured, with Iran continuing to fuel and fund these attempts.
On the northern border, attempts to smuggle military equipment—primarily destined for crime gangs—also impact Israel's domestic security. The Shin Bet's swift identification and mobilization of a team to arrest the two suspects underscores the agency's deep involvement in the intersection between criminal activity and national security within Israel.
In Gaza, Hamas is trying to leverage its perceived success into a campaign pushing Palestinians to protest along the border. Hamas interprets Israel’s domestic situation as a weakness and is trying to raise the stakes and push against Israeli policy.
Hamas wants further civilian concessions from Israel and believes that now is the time to get them, while simultaneously generating and disseminating fake news on social media about the situation on the Temple Mount and spreading fake videos about Palestinians being harmed by Israel.
In practice, the facts are entirely different. The Temple Mount was calm throughout the day, prayers proceeded as usual and efforts now focus on exposing disinformation which could potentially escalate the situation not only in Jerusalem but also in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In such a case, Israel mustn’t succumb to this pressure and placate Hamas, even if it involves Israel's interest in improving Gaza’s economic situation.
If Hamas succeeds in drawing out concessions from Israel, it will continue to escalate tensions in the region and encourage other groups to follow suit. Hamas, compared to other adversaries, isn’t a tough adversary, and Israel mustn’t overestimate it but rather take the opportunity to strengthen its deterrence against Hamas.