A recent wave of terror attacks in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) has caused military experts to acknowledge 2023 as the deadliest year since the second Palestinian Uprising began in September 2000.
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Israel Ziv, former head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, spoke to journalists on a call hosted by Media Central on August 23, 2023.
Ziv explained that there has been a big wave of terrorism hitting Israel this year. The numbers are high — 200 alerts every day, picked up by Israel’s intelligence services. Also, there are a recorded 200 attempts at terror attacks, daily. Meanwhile, this year, the rate of fatalities has been the highest that has occurred over the past few years. The most concentrated terrorist attacks are claiming the lives of Israeli citizens in the northern part of Israel… in Samaria.
The Palestinian Authority has been cooperating with Israel in Jenin, arresting terrorists and confiscating equipment there. They are also active in Nablus. But, they are not always consistent in working with Israeli authorities to stop terrorism.
According to Ziv, “As we are witnessing, it doesn’t stop the wave of attempts and the terror attacks, as we saw this week.”
Ziv’s assessment is that the type of perpetrator of these attacks is a new generation of young people in their 20’s, who are not directly connected to a terrorist organization. They are not interested in joining Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). They want to act independently with their own agenda. Ziv believes these young people have lost their trust in the Palestinian Authority (PA). They feel they have no future. They are disappointed in the limited choices in their lives.
Ziv points out, “They choose the resistance; to fight the Zionist authorities in the West Bank. In that respect, there are a lot of weapons in the West Bank, which have been smuggled in by most of the terror organizations.”
The terror cells are busy smuggling in ammunition and money too. However, the young people are occupied with finding instructions on the Internet on how to carry out a terror attack. Ziv says these young people act on their own. “It’s very hard for us to track it; or get an alert on a terror attack.”
He adds that not only are these young people making independent decisions, they are also able to obtain a weapon. Often, Israeli officials are only notified when the terror attack is taking place. Some officials in Israel call these “lone wolf” attacks. It’s hard to track them because these perpetrators of terror are not connected to terrorist cells, and they act spontaneously.
There are other factors that are causing this outbreak of terror in Samaria. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is perceived as weak. There is corruption, distractions, and personal agendas in the PA, and, they are not running the cities and industries very well.
There is also the factor of Israeli settlements. Ziv says that the local settler population is committing vandalism and violence against the Palestinians. “Even villages that were not involved, suddenly they became involved.” Ziv blames it on settlers provoking Palestinians.
He talked about the “hilltop” youth who he thinks are doing the most provoking. He claims they are politically motivated by members of the government coalition, and are not submitting to the leadership of the settlers.
The greatest concern among Israeli experts is that the Iranians are trying to influence the young people on the streets to rise-up with their weapons against the IDF. Ziv acknowledges that the Iranians, “invest a lot of money – directly and indirectly – to buy weapons, to smuggle the weapons in, and to pay people to do the terror acts – through Hamas and PIJ.”
Most of the smuggling has been from the Bekaa Valley. During the past several weeks, Israel’s security agencies and the IDF have managed to stop the smuggling. “But, it is still there. We haven’t stopped it completely,” admits Ziv. He says there are a lot of weapons for anyone who wants to use them. He also talks about the so-called heroes that come forth through the Palestinian youth culture; those who having committed an act of terror. “So, for them it is part of heroism. Every young guy wants to be a hero.”
Reports indicate that the IDF is considering another operation in Gaza. In Ziv’s estimation, the situation in the Gaza Strip is tense. However, he does not think that the PIJ and Hamas want to start another conflict with Israel any time soon. “They want to stabilize the situation for the (Gaza) population.”
Ziv acknowledges that there is barely enough electricity running on a daily basis in Gaza. There is also a shortage of food. The people of Gaza are demonstrating against Hamas and blaming the poor conditions on the Hamas government. Hamas could engage in a confrontation with Israel and inflame the area, according to Ziv. “But, they would rather not go into direct confrontation with Israel. What they do is push the youngsters in Samaria to conduct terror against Israel with a lot of incitement. They use the social media to (brain) wash their minds to carry out attacks of terror against Israel.”
Then there is Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hassan Nasrallah, who heads up the terrorist militia, has observed the demonstrations in Israeli society, the arguments, and the divisions. Ziv says Nasrallah is satisfied, and that the terrorist leader believes his dream is coming true — the fall of Israel.
Ziv has observed that Nasrallah does not take into consideration that the conflict in Israeli society is part of the functioning of a healthy democracy. Ziv reminded journalists on the media call that “once there is any outside threat, in a second we are back as brothers, and strong against aggression from the outside. It looks like the Israel dream is collapsing. It is that we are going through a process of our own identification. A lot of issues we have never discussed. We have never found a way to bridge some of those issues. We have always been busy with defense and economic advancement. We are facing something that we should have faced, and bridged, years ago. I have trust in the Israel people. It doesn’t matter how big the conflict is inside. It is without violence. We will find a way to bring ourselves back together.”
In the meantime, what will happen with the threat of Hezbollah on Israel’s border? Ziv’s answer: “I don’t see Nasrallah pushing towards a confrontation.” He adds that Nasrallah thinks Israel is falling apart by itself, so the Hezbollah leader continues with his provocations to try and humiliate the government of Israel even more.
While Ziv currently does not believe that Hezbollah is close to a conflict with Israel, the Iranians are pushing their terrorist proxy to be ready for it. However, Ziv thinks that despite earlier reports, war is not coming any time soon. The bigger story, he says, is Iran. “What is happening there is a game changer.”
The Iranians, according to Ziv, are becoming “more confident in their policy; in their power; in the fact they have become the main producer and supplier of weapons to Russia. It makes them an international player.”
Ziv talked about Iran’s increase in the production of oil, now up to 300,000 barrels per day. More money is coming into Iran’s coffers. Most of Iran’s oil is going to China. Iran’s economy has become a more encouraging situation in the eyes of the Iranians. “They are doing much more than before to create influence and impose policy.”
Furthermore, Iran has succeeded in creating a bridge towards the Gulf countries, and has normalized ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Iranian leaders are satisfied with their own foreign policy, according to Ziv, and they feel strong.
Then, there is the distraction of the U.S. elections in 2024. Ziv says Iranian leaders do not think that the U.S. will be pressuring them anytime soon. This gives Iran the time and means for a message campaign against Israel. Ziv explains that by putting Hezbollah on the alert, and pushing for more terrorist attacks in Samaria, Iranian leaders hope to achieve a successful position against Israel.
In the meantime, the IDF is stretched with a maximum amount of army units focused on Judea and Samaria. “What can make the difference is the PA,” Ziv states. “If the PA is balanced and strong enough, they can do things Israel cannot do, to prevent terrorism.”
Yet, Ziv believes that the policy of the current Israeli government is not to back-up the PA. “The Iranians are also trying to weaken the PA,” he claims, and states that Israel should not have a similar policy to that of the Iranians.
This writer wanted to know about the rockets that have been launched by terrorists in the West Bank. Ziv responded that the knowledge of how to build and use the rockets is coming from Hamas. The terrorists are trying to imitate and follow Hamas; also, to create rocket labs.
“It is not very technological or advanced. Most of it was destroyed in the operation of the IDF in Jenin,” Ziv states. He also notes that Israel is watching the capabilities of the terrorists, to make sure they are not able to launch rockets on key cities in Israel. In addition, the IDF will deal immediately with the attempted building or manufacturing of rockets. “We cannot allow Samaria to be a second Gaza.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been meeting with his security cabinet to discuss the IDF’s next move to crackdown on terrorists. The terrorists have been trying to unify, meeting with their Iranian operatives, Hezbollah, the PIJ and Hamas.
Looking to the future, the Israeli population hopes that the situation in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) does not escalate into another confrontation, and that Netanyahu’s government finds a quick and effective way to stop the surge of terror that is killing civilians day after day.