The latest information regarding Sunday morning’s terrorist attack at Ariel Junction that killed an Israeli and wounded two others is that the attacker was acting on his own initiative, a “lone wolf.” However, this was no ordinary lone wolf attack; the perpetrator was unusually cold and calculated and likely had military training.
We know this because the terrorist successfully approached the soldiers, who were securing the Ariel Junction hitchhiking post, with the knife hidden on his person, drawing it only at the moment he fell upon his victim and stabbed him, presumably the reason the attack was so deadly. He also immediately knew how to make use of the gun he snatched and was quite accurate in his shooting.
The terrorist seemingly planned his escape and seized the opportunity to flee when he saw the car abandoned by its driver. He drove to another location and opened fire there as well, before heading toward the Palestinian town of Burqin and abandoning the vehicle to seek hiding, probably realizing that he was better off on foot.
The evidence indicates that he was a member of a local terrorist organization drawing inspiration from Hamas. Perhaps he was even acting on behalf of Hamas, which has recently demonstrated an interest in fanning the flames of violence in the West Bank. Perhaps it is connected to events in Gaza where protests against the high cost of living are increasing.
The Hamas department which oversees the West Bank was bombed by the IDF Friday, in response to the rockets launched at Tel Aviv Thursday night. They have good reason to show Israel that they are still up and about and perhaps today’s terrorist was acting on their behalf.
In general, there is an abundance of reasons why terror groups would want to enflame the West Bank and commit attacks at this time: the dispute over the Gate of Mercy at the Temple Mount, the deteriorating economic situation and youth unemployment among Palestinians, due to the cessation of American funds and Israel holding back tax transfers, and of course the weekly situation at the Gaza border.
All of the above mean that the situation is extremely volatile and even if Hamas or Islamic Jihad do not directly take advantage of it, it can lead to their supporters committing or assisting in attacks.
The Israeli public is not always aware of the activities undertaken by the IDF to thwart terrorism or of the grassroots violence, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, but the data indicates that these attacks have increased lately, and so has the activity of the IDF and Shin Bet to thwart them.
But there is no foolproof guarantee. Occasionally one slips through and commits a deadly attack. It happened last year in Barkan and it happened today in the same general vicinity. Then, it was a lone attacker who received assistance from his family and from Hamas operatives in the West Bank, before and after the attack; it is likely that today’s attack is similar.
The IDF must investigate the behavior of the Artillery unit soldiers who were stationed at the scene of the attack. Difficult questions arise regarding their performance. But first they must find the attacker who is on the loose with the weapon he stole from the soldier he killed.
The soldiers are expected to detect the attacker before he strikes and they should have neutralized him as he approached, especially after he already attacked one of them. It is not yet clear whether they opened fire, but they certainly failed to hit him or prevent him from continuing on his rampage. It must be thoroughly investigated.