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Defense Desk: Escalation in the Air

Eliezer Shulman

After months of calm, wave of attacks shatters Israel’s sense of security

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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T he escalation that began last week is impossible to ignore. Two soldiers, Captain Ziv Daos and Sergeant Netanel Kahalani Hy”d, were killed last Friday in a ramming attack near the Shomron community of Reichan, and two other soldiers were wounded. On Shabbos, a bomb was detonated near an IDF jeep patrolling the security fence in Gaza. B’chasdei Shamayim, no one was hurt. That was the second bomb in two days targeting IDF forces in the area, and the fourth in recent weeks. And on Motzaei Shabbos, the IDF destroyed an attack tunnel inside Gaza, and sealed part of another one that Hamas tried to reactivate inside Israel, adjacent to the Kerem Shalom Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.

The climax of these episodes, as of this writing, was the murder of Adiel Colman, 32, a father of four, who was stabbed on Hagai Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. More than 20 terror attacks have been perpetrated specifically on this street, including Aharon Benita and Nechemia Lavi Hy”d in October 2015. Benita was attacked together with his wife; Lavi arrived on the scene to help and was targeted as well.

Hamas trumpeted every attack, calling each a “gift” presented by the Palestinians in honor of the 100th day since President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.

The embassy issue is expected to feature prominently in the coming months. Both the IDF and Shin Bet are gearing up for the upcoming period, which features plenty of remembrance days. The Palestinians will mark Land Day on March 30; in April we’ll see the 70th anniversary festivities; and in May there will be the ceremony for the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem as well as Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) Day.

Starting from the end of this month, Hamas is planning large-scale marches accompanied by tent camps set up along the border fence, where Israel is building the anti-terror tunnel wall — the one Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir described as a “tunnel-destroying guillotine” that cuts tunnels in half and renders them unusable.

Meanwhile, we’re not seeing any breakthroughs in reconciliation efforts between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Slashed economic aid to Gaza has also contributed to the crisis mode there. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview this week that the PA is purposely trying to provoke a war between Israel and Hamas.

Israel’s security establishment foresees in the coming months a very high probability for a significant escalation in the Palestinian arena. Efforts to renew massive demonstrations on the part of Gaza residents is usually accompanied by an increasing number of lone wolf terror attacks — car rammings, stabbings, as well as shootings with improvised weapons on the part of the youth who are not subordinate to any organization’s hierarchy. Israel’s response will be based on two main elements: pinpoint operations by the security forces to thwart terror attacks, with minimal collateral damage; and close coordination with the Palestinian security apparatus.

And speaking of the Palestinian security forces, even during tense periods in the last two years — the wave of terror with multiple stabbings, and last June, the crisis surrounding the Temple Mount — they kept their part of the bargain. This will become far more challenging against the backdrop of the succession wars for the Palestinian Authority leadership, given the deteriorating health of octogenarian Mahmoud Abbas. 

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 703)

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