Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016: Types, Trends and Data

Issued on: 05/02/2017 Type: Article

דפוסי הפיגועים הנפוצים של הטרור הפלסטיני העממי בשנת 2016: מימין: סכין שנמצאה בילקוטה של הצעירה, שנתפסה בעת סיכול פיגוע דקירה בכרמי צור (צילום: דוברות גוש עציון, 9 בפברואר 2016). במרכז: פיגוע ירי שבוצע לעבר אוטובוס נוסעים ישראלי סמוך לתקוע (דף הפייסבוק QUDSN, 21 במאי 2016). משמאל: זירת פיגוע דריסה בצומת הכניסה לקריית ארבע (דף הפייסבוק PALDF, 24 ביוני 2016).
Common types of terrorist attacks carried out in 2016. Left: Scene of a vehicular attack at the entrance to Kiryat Arba (Facebook page of Paldaf, June 24, 2016).Center: Shooting attack near Tekoa targeting an Israeli bus (Facebook page of QudsN, May 21, 2016). Right: Knife found in the bag of a young Palestinian woman apprehended while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack in Karmei Tsur (north of Hebron) (Photo courtesy of Gush Etzion spokesman's unit, February 9, 2016).

Introduction: The Main Types of Terrorism Used by Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and Israel

1.   Throughout 2016, Palestinian terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Israel continued carrying out various types of popular terrorism attacks(the so-called "popular resistance"). The wave of popular terrorism waned in April. After April, the average monthly distribution was greater than in previous years. On the other hand, along the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, the relative calm prevailing since the end of Operation Protective Edge (summer 2014),continued. That was manifested by the continuing decrease in the number of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in 2016. The number of rockets fired into Israel was the lowest since Israel's disengagement in 2005 and the takeover of the Strip by Hamas in 2007.

2.   The following are the main aspects of Palestinian terrorism during 2016 in Judea, Samaria, greater Jerusalem and inside Israel:

A.   Popular terrorism continued to a great degree, even after the attacks waned. The wave of popular terrorism, which peaked in October-December 2015 (with an average of about 45 significant attacks per month), consistently decreased until April 2016 (during which five significant terrorist attacks were carried out). However, between May and December 2016 popular terrorism attacks continued with between five and twelve significant attacks per month, more than the monthly average during the same months in previous years.

B.   The various types of attacks changed, as follows:

1)  Stabbing attacks continued as the main type of popular terrorism attack(61% of all the significant attacks carried out in 2016). Prominent over the past year were a stabbing spree on the seaside promenade between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, in which an American tourist was killed, and a stabbing attack in Kiryat Arba in which a 13 year-old girl was killed as she slept in her bed.

2)  There was a decrease in vehicular attacks as the wave of popular terrorism waned(about 8% of all the significant attacks in 2016). However, the truck attack carried out on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem in January 2017 was a reminder of how deadly such attacks can be, especially when carried out with heavy vehicles.

3)  There was a rise in shooting attacks(23% of significant attacks in 2016). The trend continued during January 2017. Prominent were drive-by shootings carried out in three locations in Jerusalem (two people killed), and the shooting attacks in a pub in central Tel Aviv (two killed) and in the Sarona commercial-entertainment center in the heart of Tel Aviv (four killed).

4)  The number of people killed remained high despite the decline in the wave of popular terrorism. In 2016, 17 Israelis were killed, ten in shooting attacks and seven in stabbing attacks. Between the beginning of the wave of popular terrorism (October 2015) and the end of 2016, 47 Israelis were killed (30 during October-December 2015).

C.      There was a decline in the number of Palestinians who participated in riotsas the wave of popular terrorism waned. That was true even during riots and clashes occurring during Israeli holidays when violence tends to increase (such as Passover and Jewish High Holidays in 2016, when many Israeli visited Jerusalem.)

D.      Greater Jerusalem and the Hebron region continued as focal points for popular terrorism. Still prominent but somewhat less so were the regions ofGush Etzion and Ramallah. On the other hand, the regions of Nablus and northern Samaria, which played a central role in the second intifada, played a secondary role in the wave of popular terrorism and attacksin 2016. Most of the terrorists who carried out attacks came from towns and villages near the sites of the attacks.

E.      Most of the terrorists who carried out attacks had a fairly similar profile. Most of them were male(82%), young, without a history of involvement in terrorist attacks or membership in terrorist organizations. In most instances they carried out the attacks alone, having reached the decision by themselves, spontaneously, and without instructionsfrom a person or organization. Most of the attacks were carried out using cold weapons (cars, knives and other sharp objects), sometimes using light arms, usually improvised. They were motivated by nationalistic feelings combined with personal considerations(such as family problems, frustrations, the women by gender discrimination, the desire to escape from the problems of daily life by becoming shaheeds and going to paradise).

F.      The failure of the military-type terrorism directed by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations to channel popular terrorism into an armed third intifada. Since the beginning of the wave of popular terrorism the Israeli and Palestinian security forces have repeatedly exposed terrorist networks, primarily of Hamas, planning to carry out showcase attacks, some of them inside Israel(including suicide bombing attacks in crowded urban locations, shooting attacks, and abductions to acquire bargaining chips to exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails).

G.     There were relatively few attacks and networks inspired or directed by non-Palestinian organizations (ISIS and Hezbollah). Palestinian terrorism in Judea, Samaria and Israel was for the most part carried out by Palestinians, and non-Palestinian organizations played a secondary role. A prominent ISIS-inspired attack was carried out in the Sarona commercial-entertainment center in Tel Aviv (four killed) by a terrorist influenced by ISIS ideology while in Jordan. In addition the Israeli security forces also exposed a number of Hezbollah cellshandled from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip planning to carry out shooting and suicide bombing attacks.

3.      Popular terrorism in Judea and Samaria received the support of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA), evidenced by decisions reached at the 7th Fatah conference (November 29 – December 4, 2016). Mahmoud Abbas and the PA represent popular terrorism as a "peaceful popular resistance." Behind the phrase hides full support for popular terrorism and violence, which during 2016 trickled into Israel. Hamas, as opposed to the PA, has repeatedly called for an increase in the scope of popular terrorism in a effort to turn it into established military-type terrorism.


4.      There has been a continuing decrease in the scope of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, continuing after Operation Protective Edge (August 2014, during which rocket attacks peaked). Fifteen rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory during 2016, 24 in 2015. The year 2016 was the quietest year since the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the Hamas takeover in 2007. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have exploited the relative calm torebuild their military capabilities, including replenishing their rocket arsenals and constructing tunnels extending into Israeli territory.

5.      The decline in rocket fire was a function ofHamas' policy of restraint, which it enforced on the rogue terrorist organizations more strongly and thoroughly than after previous IDF operations(on the Salafi jihadist organizations which occasionally challenged Hamas). The policy was the result of strategic considerations, the most important of which was the strengthening of Israel's deterrence after Operation Protective Edge and Hamas' desire to gain time to rebuild its military capabilities without significant interference from Israel. Other Hamas considerations are its desire to rebuild the Gaza Strip's civilian infrastructure (a secondary priority, however), the deterioration of Hamas' relations with Egypt(relations Hamas keeps trying to improve), and the cooling off of its relations with countries like Iran (a former strategic ally)and Saudi Arabia.

6.      In ITIC assessment, most of the trends of Palestinian terrorism of 2016 will continue in the coming months. Popular terrorism (the so-called "popular resistance") will continue with ups and downs, with the support of Fatah and the PA. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations will continue their efforts to establish terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria to have them carry out showcase attacks, including attacks inside IsraelIn the Gaza StripHamas will continue to be influenced by the factors that restrain its policies with Israel. However, certain scenarios may change those policies, for example, as a result of showcase terrorist attacks in Judea, Samaria and Israel, and Israel's subsequent responses; international events viewed as harming Palestinian interests (such as relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem); Israeli responses to rocket fire regarded by Hamas as disproportionate, and Israel's harming what Hamas considers its assets (its attack tunnels, for example).


The Structure of the Study
Section 1: Popular terrorism in Judea and Samaria

A.   Overview

B.   Fatah and PA policies

C.  Types of terrorist attacks

1)         Distribution of the types of attacks

2)         Stabbing attacks

3)         Vehicular attacks

4)         Shooting attacks

5)         Attacks involving IEDs

6)         Combined attacks

D.  Attack arenas

1)         Judea, Samaria and greater Jerusalem

2)         In the heart of Israel

E.   Profile of the terrorists

F.   Involvement of the PA security services in terrorist attacks

Section 2: Organized military-type terrorism in Judea and Samaria

A.   Overview

B.   Exposure of terrorist networks and prevention of attempts to transfer funds to Judea and Samaria

Section 3: Terrorism inspired or directed by non-Palestinian organizations


B.   Hezbollah

Section 4: Terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip

C.      Overview

D.      Rocket fire into Israeli territory in 2016

E.      Border clashes

F.      Riots near the border security fence and attempts to cross the fence into Israeli territory 

[1]The full version is being translated and will shortly be disseminated.

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