The defense establishment is concerned that terror groups are planning to renew shooting attacks at residents of Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood.
“They have the experience and the intension and I have the Tanzim in mind,” a senior IDF official told Ynet.
The IDF is bracing for a wage of terror attacks after Hamas' election victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. According to the official, dozens of shooting attacks against Gilo were foiled in 2005.
He warned that terror groups are planning to fire mortar shells at Gilo, but said that “as long as we have freedom of action in Bethlehem and good intelligence, these attempts will be thwarted.”
In 2006 efforts will focus on targeting terror cells in the Gush Etzion settlement block in Bethlehem. Other priorities for the IDF will be to monitor the Palestinian Authority after Hamas’ victory and to complete the security fence.
The completion of the fence will face resistance from Israelis and Palestinians alike, the official said. Hamas’ win will weaken Fatah in Bethlehem and could lead to a bloody power-struggle.
“Yet I do not expect a dramatic escalation,” the official said
“The area of Bethlehem is seen as quiet. From the beginning of 2004 all attacks were thwarted with the exception of two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in buses 14 and 19 in Jerusalem. Things livened up recently after the elections. The PA security apparatus has been weakened and Palestinian security prisoners are being released in Jericho,” he added.
Terror groups awakening
“There is a slight drop in terror activities. Less terror, mortar and Molotov cocktail attacks, but more incidents of stone throwing,” he said, adding that 21 shooting attacks were recorded against Gilo in 2003 as opposed to 10 in 2004 and 3 in 2005.
He added that Fatah’s Tanzim group controls the Bethlehem area.
“I see this as a transitory period of instability. Tanzim suspects have more power to carry out attacks. Now they are living on the fence,” the official added.
In 2005, 500 terror suspects were arrested and five terror attacks were foiled in Jerusalem.
“There is an awakening among terror groups. But the preemptive policy is successful,” he said.
Asked about Bethlehem’s Christians, he said that “a third of the city’s residents are Christian. About 1,000 Christians leave the area every year, and after the Hamas victory many of them fear an uncertain future,” the official added.