The Israel Security Agency’s 2006 report asserts that terrorist organizations in Judea and Samaria continued their vigorous activity this year in which they focused their activities on attacking Israeli targets alongside their efforts of building up the various organizations’ capabilities. That said, the Gaza Strip maintained its status as a “central producer” of terrorism. There was a 150% increase in terrorist activity overseen by Hezbollah in Judea and Samaria in the first half of 2006 and the organization’s presence is felt in terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip as well. Most of the attacks originating from the Gaza Strip are high-trajectory weapons. Hezbollah gathers intelligence on Israel through the use of agents and accomplices working for the organization and from open sources as well. Among others, the organization uses criminal elements, tourists and even Jews and Israelis. During 2006, approximately 5,000 terror activists were arrested in Judea and Samaria. 279 of those arrested were potential suicide bombers compared to 154 potential suicide bombers in 2005 – an increase of approximately 80%. This significant rise in the amount of potential suicide bombers who were arrested demonstrates the increased motivation to carry out suicide attacks, especially in Samaria. However, despite attempts by terrorist organizations to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets, the amount of attacks has gone down in comparison to last year.
The barrier region makes it difficult for the terrorist organizations to carry out suicide attacks inside Israel. Hence, the terrorist organizations try and initiate attacks from regions in which the fence has not yet been completed. The Judean region, especially the Jerusalem area, serves as a platform for inserting terrorist attackers into Israel. Another means of dealing with the barrier region are the illegal day-laborers, who are experts at finding infiltration routes into Israel. In addition, they are familiar with smugglers and those who drive the day-laborers, who usually operate for financial motives. The day-laborers high level of orientation within Israel enables them to collect a great deal of prior intelligence on possible locations for attacks. The past year has been characterized by an increase in the handling, operation and guidance of terrorist cells in Judea and Samaria, especially in Samaria, by elements from the Gaza Strip, with emphasis on the Hamas. Command centers in the Gaza Strip provided cells with the know-how of how to upgrade their weapons-making capabilities, including high-trajectory weapons. They also guided their terrorist activities and provided them with money in order to fund this activity. Hezbollah directs terrorist activity in Judea and Samaria There was a 150% increase in terrorist activity guided by Hezbollah in Judea and Samaria in the first half of 2006. On the eve of the Second Lebanon War, there were 80 terrorist cells operating in Judea and Samaria under Hezbollah guidance, most of whom are from the Tanzim or Islamic Jihad. In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah tried to spur terrorist cells to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets in order to open another front against Israel. Since the Second Lebanon war ended, Hezbollah has focused its operational activity on the Palestinian arena while enhancing its involvement and support of the various cells and instilling its methods of operation from the Second Lebanon War.
In light of the opening of the Rafiah Crossing for free movement and Hamas’ ascendance to power, Hamas’ activity in the Gaza Strip has increased and there are currently 30 terrorist cells operated by Hezbollah. These cells were able to upgrade their activity with Hezbollah’s help by training explosives experts, meeting with the heads of the organizations in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, gaining knowledge that helped improve their high-trajectory weapons array, receiving large sums of money and coordinating the transfer of weapons.
On May 17th, 2006, Hamas’ Minister of Interior Sayid Siam announced the establishment of the organization’s operational force in the Gaza Strip. The establishment of this force served Hamas’ interest of maintaining an open, armed and trained military arm that will be able to guard the interests of Hamas and the Hamas government in the Palestinian street and the region. As a result of the power struggles between Hamas and Fattah in the past few months, the Hamas government assented to calls from the organization’s senior activists in Judea and Samaria and authorized the establishment of the operational force in Judea and Samaria as well. Indeed, since October of 2006, there has been noticeable recruiting activity, weapons procurement, training and logistical preparations intended to replicate the model of the operational force in Judea and Samaria as well.
The number of suicide attacks the Islamic jihad was able to carry out in 2006 in Judea and Samaria declined. The organization was only able to carry out 2 suicide attacks compared to 5 attacks in 2005. Over a 1,000 Islamic Jihad activists in Judea and Samaria were arrested, including 96 potential suicide bombers, and several prominent leaders were killed as part of the concentrated effort to strike at the organization’s infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. Despite Israeli security forces’ activity, Islamic Jihad cells in Judea and Samaria demonstrated quick recovery capabilities and still pose a serious threat, especially in the Northern Samaria.
The Gaza Strip maintained its status as a central producer of terrorism in 2006. Approximately 53% of the terrorist attacks in 2006 were carried out by activists from the Gaza Strip, which continues to serve as a center for guidance and initiation of terrorist attacks against Israel. In this context, the terrorist organizations are constantly working to upgrade their weapons by smuggling weapons, self-developing and manufacturing. They are also working on developing military doctrine and training activists. Several brutal attacks against Israeli targets were carried out from the Gaza Strip in 2006 as part of the terrorist organizations’ attempts to carry out a mass casualty attack and a hostage-taking attack within Israel and near the border with the Gaza Strip, especially following Hamas’ open return to carrying out attacks. The majority of the attacks carried out from the Gaza Strip are carried out with high-trajectory weapons. Over the past year, the number of rocket attacks against Israel increased by several hundred percent. The massive overhauling of the organizations’ capabilities and the upgrading of weaponry improved the quality of the attacks originating from the Gaza Strip. The rockets’ range was increased and in March of this year, the first rocket was fired at Ashkelon, only to be followed by others. Exploiting the “Philadelphi Route” (The Egyptian - Gaza Strip border) for terrorist activity Following the IDF’s withdrawal from the “Philadelphi Route” in September of 2005, it turned into a fast and relatively safe route for smuggling weapons and operatives. The terrorist organizations exploit the “Philadelphi Route” for three central goals: building up capabilities in the Gaza Strip, smuggling in operatives and explosives experts through the “Het Route” (Gaza Strip – Sinai/Egypt – Israel), and transferring funds and knowledge to the terrorist organizations. Hamas’ rise to power and the anarchy in the Palestinian Authority (PA) Hamas’ rise to power in January of 2006 brought about changes in the Palestinian conduct in the Gaza Strip. Alongside Abu-Mazen’s rule as Chairman of the PA, Hamas now heads the Palestinian parliament and government. The power struggle between Hamas and Fattah over the control of the street and the security forces and the lack of effective centralized control brought about anarchy and violent conflict between Hamas and Fattah activists. In addition, the difficult financial situation in the Gaza Strip also contributed to the anarchy in the PA.
The ties between Hamas and Iran have been improving since Hamas’ victory in the elections. The change in the PA’s political map provides Iran with a foothold in order to expand its political and operational influence in the Palestinian arena. Hamas’ voting into power and Western countries’ financial siege of Hamas’ government made Iran the primary supporter of the Hamas government by providing large sums of money to senior Palestinian government officials visiting in Tehran. These officials return to the Gaza Strip through the Rafiah Crossing with suitcases full of money. Due to the Second Lebanon War, Hamas has been working in the past few months in order to enhance its activity while adopting Hezbollah’s operational patterns from Lebanon. This activity is carried out with the help of Hamas elements from Syria and Iran. Likewise, activists continue to smuggle a great deal of upgraded weapons into the Gaza Strip, especially anti-tank weapons, in addition to building an extensive underground array both for attack and defense.
The large sums of money that are transferred to the terrorist organizations continued to fuel terrorism in 2006. The terrorist organizations continue to vigorously work towards developing varied methods of smuggling in from abroad money for terrorism to cells in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Many activists involved in smuggling in money from abroad were arrested, money was confiscated and associations and organizations that helped fund terrorists were outlawed as part of the consolidated effort in the fight against terrorism financing. Increased efforts by terrorist organizations to carry out hostage-taking attacks The amount of warnings regarding terrorist organizations’ intentions to carry out hostage-taking attacks grew in 2006. Terrorist organizations were able to carry out several hostage-taking attacks during 2006, including the abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit and the abduction and murder of the student Eliyahu Asheri – both took place in June of 2006.
In 2006, the ideas of global jihad had greater influence on the activists in the various terrorist organizations in Judea and Samaria and especially in the Gaza Strip. The presence of global jihad elements in the Sinai helps this phenomenon grow since access to the region today is almost completely free. Signs of the penetration of global jihad ideas have also been spotted in Judea and Samaria. The internet also facilitates the penetration of global jihad ideas to the Gaza Strip. Websites allow activists to receive varied information ranging from global jihad ideas to instructions on how to produce weapons and explosives and how to carry out complex attacks.
The Involvement of Israeli Arabs in terrorism continued in 2006. 21 cells involving 24 Israeli Arabs were exposed in 2006 compared to 17 cells with 22 Israeli Arabs exposed in 2005. Recruitment of Israeli Arabs is usually conducted following prior acquaintance with terrorism activists – business relations, family ties, etc’. The majority of the activity was directed by the terrorist organizations in Judea and Samaria, especially those in Samaria, who have a difficult time carrying out attacks in Israel due to the barrier fence. Israeli Arabs are also used in order to smuggle high-quality weapons into Judea and Samaria for carrying out attacks. Israeli Arabs’ involvement in weapons trading is also very evident in the Negev where they help terrorist organizations from the Gaza Strip with smuggling through the “Het Route”. In addition, cells directed by Hezbollah were also uncovered. Approximately 40% of Israeli Arabs involved in terrorism were “family unification” Palestinians who were able to receive a permit to reside in Israel and a ‘blue’ identity card following their marriage to an Israeli Arab. 10 “family unification” Israeli Arabs were arrested and confessed their involvement in terrorism in 2006. Their involvement included, among other things, attempts at smuggling explosive charges into Israel and transporting weapons.
Hezbollah has been constantly, and especially in the past two years, gathering intelligence regarding Israel. Hezbollah gathers its information from agents and accomplices working for the organization and from open sources, including the Israeli media. During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah gathered information on the locations and impact of the Katyusha rockets, IDF’s activity in Lebanon and the IDF and homefront’s readiness for the continuation of the fighting. Hezbollah tries to recruit agents with access to civilian and military information who operate for personal motives or have an exploitable weakness and are able to meet abroad. They include drug dealers, criminals, former and current military and police personnel, reporters and businessmen. In addition, Hezbollah aims to recruit Israeli Arab agents or foreign passport holders who can collect intelligence during a visit to Israel. It is also known that Hezbollah tries to recruit Jews. Hezbollah uses this information in order to build a list of targets for rocket fire. It can be assumed that all of the information collected by Hezbollah regarding Israel is also directed by Iran and passed on to the relevant elements in Iran.