Is an armed intifada underway?
Analysis: Rate of shooting incidents has been increasing in recent weeks, alongside a gradual drop in number of riots and stabbing and vehicular attacks. Hamas, seeking to create an escalation that will lead to PA's collapse, is behind institutionalized terror threatening to take over conflict.
It's a ritual which defense establishment officials have predicted, feared and tried to curb - but it's already here.
This ritual repeats itself in most violent rounds between Israel and the Palestinians. It starts with protests, riots and Molotov cocktails, continues with knifing and vehicular attacks, slowly moves to individuals firing personal weapons, and from there - in a quick quantum leap - it turns into an armed conflict operated by institutionalized terror. We have almost reached the last stage of this ritual.
Four shooting attacks took place only last weekend. While our attention was naturally focused on the murder on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff street and on the manhunt for the murderer, three additional shooting incidents occurred in the territories at the same time, leaving two soldiers wounded: A soldier was shot in Hebron while checking vehicles, a cadet was wounded by sniper fire near the Cave of the Patriarchs, and a vehicle travelling on Jerusalem's Tunnel Road was fired on.
The weekend events join 32 shooting incidents which have occurred since the current wave of terror began, and 80 similar attacks which have been thwarted by the Shin Bet in the past year, mostly in recent months.
In the past few weeks, the rate of shooting incidents has been increasing. At the same time, there has been a gradual drop in the "quality" of disturbances, the protests are smaller and shorter and attract fewer participants, and the number of lone wolf terrorists who mainly carry out stabbing and vehicular attacks appears to be stabilizing and even decreasing.
One of the reasons for the drop in the number of disturbances stems from the Palestinian Authority's conduct. PA officials have realized that Hamas, which wishes to bring about the PA's collapse, is behind the institutionalized terror that is crawling into the conflict and threatening to take over it. That is why the Temple Mount issue, which was the greatest motive for the riots, has suddenly disappeared from the PA's discourse in the territories.
In general, the PA's leaders and its representatives on the ground are keeping a low profile: They are not encouraging the wave of violence as much, and not inciting as much. In the past two weeks, the PA's security forces have even been instructed to stop protestors from flocking to areas of friction with Jews like the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Gush Etzion Junction, etc.
It's not by chance that the PA is not referring to the recent wave of violence as an intifada. Hamas is the only one using that term. The PA has been calling the current wave "hiba" (leap), "harak" (transfer) or "ghadab" (a fit of anger). The multiple names show that at the meantime, there is no pivotal idea or one leadership for the events. The PA fears the possibility that Hamas will use this wave of events to lead it to an armed intifada in order to bring the PA down.
Israel's defense establishment and capital have also been discussing this possibility intensively in the past few weeks. The Shin Bet's activity in the West Bank - in cooperation with the Palestinian security apparatus - is to prevent the PA's collapse by curbing the effort made by Hamas' military wing to move to an armed intifada.
Only last month, the Shin Bet arrested a Hamas military infrastructure in Abu Dis, of which most members are students in the local university. This infrastructure, which received money and was operated by Hamas in Gaza, built labs, recruited two suicide bombers and recruited Israeli Arabs to lead the suicide bombers into the Green Line in a bid to reenact the events of the second intifada, including the exploding buses and explosive belts, etc. This infrastructure was located at a mature stage. At the same time, the Shin Bet arrested additional groups in earlier stages of organization.
One of Hamas's main recruitment and operation centers in the West Bank is based in Turkey. It has recently been reported that Salah Aruri, the person in charge of Hamas' terrorist activity in the West Bank, was deported from Turkey to Qatar as part of the improving relations with Israel. But this is actually a hypocritical game played by the Erdogan regime vis-à-vis Israel. The Turks asked Aruri to leave several months ago following American pressure.
Hamas's military wing, however, continues to operate from Istanbul, and Aruri himself comes and goes between Qatar and Turkey. This week, by the way, he is in Istanbul under the protection of the Turkish intelligence, which is also securing him.
The Palestinians still remember Faisal Husseini's warning that the popular intifada must not deteriorate into a military intifada. Because as soon as that happens, the image of David versus Goliath will wear out in the world. It will be a game of weapons versus weapons, and Israel will win. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas understands that, but Hamas doesn’t care. It is pushing for an armed intifada, which is already at our doorstep.