A masked Palestinian terrorist hacks at a Jew with a meat cleaver (Facebook page of QudsN, October 18, 2015). Stabbing attacks are the most common type of attack in the current Palestinian terrorist campaign.
The Arabic reads "Stab [the Jews]!" (Facebook page of QudsN, October 14, 2015).
Palestinians riot in east Jerusalem and attack Israeli security forces during the Succoth holiday (Raya.ps, September 30, 2015).
Palestinians gather stones on the Temple Mount in preparation for throwing them at Israeli security forces (Al-Bayan, Egypt, September 28, 2015).
A stabbing attack, the most frequent type of attack carried out in the popular terrorist campaign: a scene from a security camera video taken at the entrance to the town of Beitar Illit.
Incitement using posters.
Direct incitement to terrorism in the social networks: an explicit call to kill Jews. The Arabic reads, "Death to the settlers." No distinction is made between settlers and Jews in general (Facebook page of Tareq al-Qabawi, November 6, 2015).
1. This study is an interim summary of the Palestinian popular terrorist campaign, currently concluding its seventh month. The campaign was triggered by a slogan falsely claiming that "Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger." The violent confrontations between Palestinian rioters and the Israeli security forces in the Temple Mount compound spread to Jerusalem during the Jewish High Holidays [second half of September 2015]. At the beginning of October 2015 a wave of stabbing attacks began in the Old City of Jerusalem (with attacks on October 3, 4 and 7). From the Old City the attacks spread to the heart of Israel: Petah Tikva, Qiryat Gat and Afula (October 7, 8 and 9), and from there to various locations in Judea and Samaria.
2. Since the terrorist campaign peaked in October 2015 its intensity has decreased. However, it is still too early to determine whether it has lost momentum, or if the decrease is temporary and the campaign will be renewed.
3. This study is based on a wide variety of sources, most of them affiliated with Israeli security or the Palestinian media. The information herein was also included in dozens of ITIC bulletins dealing with the terrorist campaign since its initiation (available on the ITIC website in eight languages). To make it easier for the reader, the study takes the form of questions and answers about the tactical and strategic aspects of the terrorist campaign. The Appendix provides visual examples of the incitement to violence and terrorism accompanying and provoking the campaign.
4. Methodology: The findings of the ITIC study do not necessarily match the data and conclusions drawn by various security and civilian groups in Israel and abroad that also monitor the Palestinian terrorist campaign. The differences in conclusions and occasionally in data may arise from the use of different data bases, different methodologies or different viewpoints.
Characteristics of the Current Palestinian Terrorist Campaign
5. When did the current terrorist campaign begin?
1) In ITIC assessment the current terrorist campaign began with the stone-throwing attack carried out on the eve of the Jewish New Year (September 13, 2015) which led to the death of Alexander Levlowitz. Palestinians threw stones at his car in the southern part of Jerusalem. He was critically wounded and died the following day. During the High Holidays (second half of September 2015) Palestinians rioted on the Temple Mount and east Jerusalem, motivated by a propaganda campaign falsely claiming that "Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger." On October 1, 2015, the riots transitioned into serious terrorist attacks and a broad terrorist campaign which spread from east Jerusalem to other cities in Israel and then to various locations in Judea and Samaria.
2) According to other methodology, the terrorist campaign began on October 1, 2015, the date of the shooting attack when Palestinians killed the Henkin couple near the village of Itamar in Samaria. The reasoning behind choosing the date was that after it a wave of stabbing attacks began in Jerusalem, turning the violent confrontations into an extended terrorist campaign. However, assigning October 1, 2015 as the starting point ignores the violence of the High Holidays in the second half of September 2015. In ITIC assessment the violence of the High Holidays was part of the terrorist campaign.
6. What should the terrorist campaign be called?
1 erminology is important in the battle for hearts and minds, and there is significance to how each side refers to the terrorist campaign. In ITIC assessment, the current terrorist campaign is an intensification of the continuing popular terrorism which has been part of Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah strategy since 2009. However, the current terrorist campaign has its own character, which differentiates it from the terrorist attacks of previous years (such as the intensity and ferocity of the attacks, their seeping into Israeli territory, the high level of lethality)
2) Hamas (and other terrorist organizations)call the current terrorist campaign "the Al-Quds intifada." That is because it was sparked by riots in Jerusalem and because calling it the Al-Quds intifada associates it with the first and second intifadas. The PA calls the terrorist campaign a "popular awakening" (al-habba al-shaabiya), to emphasize its "popular" character, play down its violence and distinguish its own terminology from that used by Hamas. The Israeli media sometimes call it the "lone wolf intifada," despite the fact that it differs from the two intifadas, and in some instances attacks have been carried out by two or even three Palestinian terrorists, not by "lone wolves."
7. Is the current popular terrorist campaign spontaneous or the result of directed policy?
1) The current terrorist campaign was not planned in advance and did not begin after receiving instructions from the PA, Fatah or any terrorist organization. It does not have a united leadership that determines targets or strategy. It is rooting in the concept of "popular resistance," adopted by the sixth Fatah conference (August 2009) and implemented in Judea and Samaria. Since then the concept has become the PA's main strategic policy, which it uses to promote its political, propaganda and legal struggles against Israel.The concept of popular resistance is, as far as the PA is concerned, an acceptable alternative for the Palestinian people to Hamas' concept of "armed resistance."
2) During the past six years of the so-called "popular resistance" the Palestinians have made extensive use of violence and terrorism. They still carry out the same types of attacks: throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, carrying out stabbing attacks, vehicular attacks and shooting attacks. For example, according to data from the Israel Security Agency, in 2013 Palestinians carried out 1,271 terrorist attacks, most of them popular terrorism attacks, while some of them were military-type attacks (shooting attacks, detonating IEDs and throwing hand grenades). In the terrorist attacks of the six years of "popular resistance", Palestinians killed forty Israelis, most of them civilians. Thus it is clear that while Mahmoud Abbas calls popular terrorism "non-violent resistance" or "unarmed resistance," in reality, both past and present, the terrorist campaign employs both violence and terrorism and most of the casualties have been Israeli civilians.
8. What is the extent of the attacks and what kind of attacks are involved?
1) According to the attacks as monitored by the ITIC, as of April 13, 2016, 248 significant terrorists were either carried out or prevented (mainly stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks). Of the 248, 204 were carried out and 44 were prevented, i.e., they were not carried out in practice for various reasons (mainly the result of the Israeli security forces' preventive activities). The monthly distribution of attacks (See graph below) indicates that the terrorist campaign peaked in October 2015 and has since generally declined (with weekly fluctuations). The data do not include the hundreds of monthly incidents in which Palestinians throw stones and Molotov cocktails as the Israeli security forces and at Israeli civilians.
Monthly distribution of 204 significant terrorist attacks
2) Stabbing attacks are the most frequent type of attack (144) and typify the current terrorist campaign. They are followed by vehicular attacks (28) and shooting attacks (19). Shooting attacks have the deadliest form of terrorist attack (they were responsible for the deaths of 16 of the 35 Israelis killed in the current terrorist campaign i.e., about 46%). About a third, 76 of the 204 significant terrorist attacks, were carried out in greater Jerusalem and other Israeli cities and towns. About two thirds, 128 of the significant attacks, were carried out in Judea and Samaria, especially in the region of Hebron (See graph).
9. The distribution of terrorist attacks:
The distribution of the types of the 204 terrorist attacks
Note: The graph does not show the hundreds of incidents of stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwing attacks carried out (with the exception of one attack, which led to the death of Alexander Levlowitz). "Combined attacks" are those of more than one type, such as a stabbing and vehicular attack, a shooting and vehicular attack, etc. "Miscellaneous" refers to those carried out with a club, hammer or meat cleaver. Shooting attacks do not include the scores of attacks targeting the security forces, either routinely or during security activities.
Distribution of attacks according to location
10. How many Palestinian terrorists have been involved in the attacks and how many of them were killed?
1) Two hundred forty terroristswere involved in the 204 significant terrorist attacks, that is, most of the attacks were carried out by single attackers. In addition, at least 59 terrorists were detained during preventive activities, so that the total number of terrorists who carried out or planned to carry out terrorist attacks was at least 299.
2) Of the 240 terroristswho carried out significant terrorist attacks, 138 were killed during the attacks. Two were killed in "work accidents" (one in a car crash and one when an IED blew up in his hands). One hundred and two terrorists were apprehended and detained while carrying out attacks, or escaped.
11. What is the overall number of Palestinians killed during the current terrorist campaign? Dozens of Palestinianswho were killed rioting against the Israeli security forces can be added to the 138 terrorists killed while carrying out significant terrorist attacks. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent (April 2, 2016), the total number of Palestinians killed is 204. That figure may indicate that 66 Palestinians were killed during riots, of whom 27 were killed in the Gaza Strip (according to an NGO calling itself the "National Association of Shaheed Families"). Therefore, 39 were killed in Judea and Samaria (Note: Since the count was not carried out by the ITIC, there is no certainty that the numbers are correct, but in ITIC assessment they accurately reflect the situation).
12. What is the common profile of the Palestinians who have carried out terrorist attacks?
1) Examination of most of the perpetrators of the attacks has shown that there are characteristics common to most of the terrorists, but not all. General speaking they have been young, some of them high school and university students, unemployed or employed at jobs unsuited to their abilities, with no past record of involvement in terrorist attacks or previous affiliation with a terrorist organization. Most of them carried out the attack alone, the result of a spontaneous personal decision, without instructions from any organization and sometimes also without the knowledge of their families (the profile has more than a few exceptions).
2) The most prominent characteristic is the terrorists' young age. More than 50% (126 of 240) were carried out by Palestinians between the ages of 16 and 22. Only a few were younger than 16 or older than 27. There was a conspicuously small number of terrorists in their 30s. The youngest Palestinian was 12; he carried out a stabbing attack in Givat Ze'ev in Egypt. The oldest was a 72 year-old woman who carried out a vehicular attack in Hebron.
3) Place of residence of the terrorists: Most of the terrorists (60) came from the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and nearby villages. Almost as many (59) came from Hebron and the surrounding villages. Sixteen came from the region around Nablus and 15 from the region around Ramallah. Unlike the second intifada, so far Samaria has been marginal compared with Judea and Binyamin. Most of the terrorists opted to carry out the attacks in geographical proximity to their homes (although there were exceptions).
Distribution of terrorists according to place of residence
4) The role of women in the terrorist campaign: Twenty-seven of the 240 terrorists have been women, that is about 11%. Of the 59 terrorists detained during preventive activities, 23 were women, that is, about 39%. Thus the participation of women in the current terrorist campaign is about 17% (50 of 299 Palestinians whose attacks succeeded or were prevented). The difference between the number of women who attempted to carry out terrorist attacks and those who carried the out in practice indicates a gap between their motivation and capabilities.
13. What motivates the Palestinians who carry out terrorist attacks?
1) Various institutions in Israel, the PA and the West have provided different conclusions about the motivations of the terrorists. That is probably because the databases are incomplete, methodologies differ and sometimes there may be political partiality. The conclusions differ because of factors relating to the different weights assigned to national and personal motives. Thus the issue of motivation needs a more extensive, objective investigation, carried out by professionals and based on a wider database. Such an investigation is difficult given the fact that the terrorist campaign continues.
2) The ITIC's examination concluded that most of the terrorists who have carried out attacks were charged with nationalistic Palestinian sentiments. They belonged to the younger Palestinian generation that reached maturity during the popular terrorism attacks in Judea and Samaria that preceded the current terrorist campaign. Their nationalist motivation was greatly influenced by formal and informal education, which from earliest childhood imbued them with a narrative that denies the State of Israel the right to exist and considers violence and terrorism as the main components of Palestinian strategy. They are influenced by what they hear at home, in the street and at school, and by anti-Israel propaganda and incitement in the media (See below). In some instances (mainly in Hebron and east Jerusalem) they are influenced by the ongoing friction with the Israeli security forces and Israeli civilians (both locations which have served as focal points for attacks).
3) Nevertheless, the personal considerations of the young Palestinians and spontaneity were important in their decision to carry out an attack. Personal considerations included problems at home, frustration caused by unemployment or unsuitable work, gender discrimination against women, and the desire to escape the hardships of daily life by becoming a shaheed and going to paradise. Some had close friends who were killed or were influenced by shaheeds not personally known to them but who became role models (imitation has been prominent among young Palestinians). Any of the above could be reasons for certain young Palestinians to choose to sacrifice themselves and carry out attacks where the chances of their dying were great. However, the above reasons do not provide a complete explanation and cannot be separated from the conditions under which the young Palestinians live and the overall Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
4) What is the weight of religious motivation?
The current terrorist campaign began with the allegedly religious motivation of "defending Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem." However, as it progressed the importance of religion as a motivating factor waned. Apparently, in most instances religion is not an important motivating factor. An examination of pictures and various posts that appeared on the Facebook pages of some of the terrorists indicated that most of them had been exposed to the modern world. That could be seen by their clothing, how they entertained themselves and their interests. Most of them led secular lives and only some were clearly religious or expressed religious sentiments. However, the non-religious young Palestinians did not hesitate to use religious terminology before they carried out terrorist attacks, especially regarding the delights awaiting shaheeds in paradise.
A picture of a horse posted to Facebook. The Arabic reads, "Some day we will leave [the world] without possessions…Oh Allah, turn us towards paradise." It appeared on the Facebook page of Qassem Jabber the day before he carried out a combined vehicular and shooting attack at the entrance to Kiryat Arba, injuring an IDF soldier (March 14, 2016). His accomplice, Amir al-Juneidi, also posted the picture to his own Facebook page the same day.
14. How many Israeli civilians (and foreign nationals) have been killed in the current Palestinian terrorist campaign so far?So far 35 people have been killed, 29 civilians and six members of the Israeli security forces. Most of them (16) were killed in shooting attacks (the most lethal type of attack); 12 in stabbing attacks (the most common type of attack). Two were killed in vehicular attacks and one as the result of a stoning. Four were killed by mistake because they were suspected of being terrorists or accidentally killed by Israeli security force fire. The overwhelming majority of victims, 31, were Israelis, two were American, one was Ethiopian and one was an innocent Palestinian bystander.
15. What role does Palestinian incitement play in the terrorist campaign?
1) It is clear that the Palestinians who carry out terrorist attacks, especially young Palestinians, have been greatly influenced by the ongoing incitement against Israelis. Such incitement was also present before the current terrorist campaign and increased during it. It is present in the establishment and non-establishment Palestinian media, the PA and Fatah media, and the media affiliated with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, and in media without political affiliation. It floods the Internet, the social networks, and the written and electronic media. It also appears in the establishment and non-establishment Arabic media. It is present in the formal and informal educational systems, repeated during the funerals held for shaheeds, and in the street with graffiti and posters (See the Appendix for examples).
2) Types of incitement:
A. The wave propaganda preaching violence and terrorism can be divided into two types:direct incitement, that is, direct, overt calls for terrorist attacks, and indirect incitement, which does not specifically incite to attacks but encourages them. Direct incitement is usually produced by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, but can also be found in Fatah. Indirect incitement is mainly produced by the PA and Fatah, but is well-integrated into the direct incitement of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.
B. There are various types of indirect incitement, including the glorification of shaheeds (death notices, praise, support from their immediate environment and beyond); descriptions of the pleasures waiting for shaheeds in paradise (themes which greatly influence even the non-religious); the demonization and systematic, methodical defamation of Israel (such as accusing Israel of "executing" Palestinians who carry out terrorist attacks); the PA and Fatah's moral and material support for the families of shaheeds (attendance at funerals, issuing death notices, financial support for the families of shaheeds and prisoners, and for rebuilding the houses of terrorists that were destroyed). On a deeper level there is a great deal of propaganda and incitement in the formal and informal Palestinian educational systems.
Glorifying shaheeds. Left: A picture glorifying Palestinian terrorist Nasha't Milhem, who carried out a shooting attack on Dizengoff Street in the heart of Tel Aviv, killing three Israelis and wounding seven (January 1, 2016). It represents him as fighting against Israel on behalf of Palestine (Facebook page of Paldf, January 8, 2016). Right: A demonstration organized by Hamas in solidarity with Palestinian terrorist Nasha't Milhem (Facebook page of Hamas' unit for public activity in western Gaza City, January 9, 2016).
3) Despite the great influence of the propaganda and incitement in the Palestinian media, it is only one of the factors influencing the Palestinians who carry out attacks. There are other influential strata, the most important of which is the educational system, informal and formal in the schools and universities that produce the young Palestinians and students, and the anti-Israel atmosphere they are intimately exposed to (in the Gaza Strip school children undergo military training at school and at summer camp). That means that while lowering the level of incitement in the media, as important as it may be, will not by itself end the terrorist campaign. That is because the deeper strata influencing those who carry out terrorist attacks must be dealt with at their most fundamental level.
16. What role do the social networks play in the current terrorist campaign? Many young Palestinians who participated in the current terrorist campaign were active in the social networks (especially Facebook). The ITIC analysis of their Facebook pages revealed that the social networks served as a source of inspiration (and on occasion as channels of communication) for terrorists. Their Facebook pages often contained postings about the desires for self-sacrifice and to reach paradise, the rewards waiting for the shaheed and glorification of shaheeds who carried out attacks in the current terrorist campaign, or in the past who became role models. Friends of the shaheeds and many other Palestinians who were exposed to the postings expressed their support and did not try to dissuade the terrorists from their intention to become shaheeds.
17. What is the PA's policy?
1) The PA and Fatah did not initiate the current terrorist campaign (the so-called "popular awakening") but the PA and Fatah support it, do not condemn it and seek to harness it to the struggle they are waging against Israel. At the same time the PA is concerned that its "popular awakening" might spin out of control (especially by turning into an armed intifada). The PA is concerned that an armed intifada will serve Hamas' interests to weaken the PA and establish itself in Judea and Samaria by exploiting the twilight of Mahmoud Abbas' regime.
2) In addition, turning the "popular awakening" into an armed intifada has other dangers from the PA's perspective: it may upset the routine daily life of the Palestinian people in Judea and Samaria, worsen the already shaky economy and disrupt the PA's political, legal and propaganda struggle against Israel (the damages done by the second intifada are still fresh in the memory of Mahmoud Abbas, the PA and Fatah leadership and the entire Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria).
3) With that in mind, the PA follows a bidirectional policy:
A. On the one hand, it supports the current terrorist campaign, calling it the "popular awakening."It glorifies shaheeds killed during terrorist attacks and disseminates the false narrative that Israel "executes" Palestinians. PA and Fatah support has many aspects: Fatah issues official death notices for Palestinians killed during attacks; senior PA and Fatah figures pay condolence calls to the families of shaheeds; military "governmental" funerals are held for them; the families of shaheeds, prisoners and the wounded receive material and moral support; and the PA- and Fatah-affiliated media are enlisted to support the "popular awakening" and foster hatred for Israel.
Left: The governmental funeral held for Mahmoud Sayid Alian, wounded during a riot near Beit El and who later died. His body is carried by operatives of the Palestinian security forces. The yellow flags are Fatah's. Mahmoud Alian belonged to Fatah and had been in the front lines of many riots.Right: Mahmoud Sayid Alian during a riot (Picture from the Jordanian TV channel Roya posted to the Facebook page of Anata News, November 20 2015).
B. At the same time, the PA takes steps to prevent popular terrorism from turning into a military-style intifada that would serve Hamas. The PA also takes steps to contain the riots and prevent them from turning into large-scale confrontations that might lead to a deterioration of the situation on the ground. In practical terms, the PA security forces are used to expose and detain Hamas networks; collaboration continues between the Palestinian security services and Israeli security forces (despite strong protests from Hamas); and PA functionaries (teachers, school principals, members of the ministry of education and of the security forces) have tried to reduce the extent of the participation of school children in terrorist attacks and violence.
18. =What comes next?
"Has the intifada been halted? Strangled? Killed? Is it an awakening that lost its momentum? Or has it changed and will erupt in a future confrontation in a more violent and lethal form?" (Nasr al-Lahham, editor-in-chief of the Ma'an News Agency, in an article entitled "Has the Al-Quds intifada ended or changed its nature?" April 9. 2016).
1) Hamas and the other terrorist organizations want to intensify the popular terrorist campaign and turn it into the third intifada. For Hamas, that entails ongoing efforts to encourage military-style terrorist attacks alongside popular terrorism (i.e., increasing the number of shooting attacks, abducting Israelis for bargaining purposes, suicide bombing attacks). Hamas has failed so far, primarily because of the effective preventive activities of the Israeli security forces and to a certain extent also of the Palestinian security services. In view of the waning of the current terrorist campaign, in the coming weeks Hamas and the other terrorist organizations can be expected to increase their efforts to boost its momentum.
A picture posted to a Hamas website calling on all the Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Fatah, to join hands to promote the intifada in the West Bank. The Arabic reads, "The intifada erupted…the [West] Bank resists" (Facebook page of Paldf, October 8, 2015). The picture reflects Hamas' desire to include all the terrorist organizations in turning the "popular intifada" into an organized intifada under the direction of one leadership.
2) The extent of the current Palestinian terrorist campaign has decreased since it peaked in October 2015(as of April 14, 2016). At this stage it cannot be said whether it has run its course or has only temporarily lost momentum and will resurge. The upcoming Passover holidays may indicate the direction the terrorist campaign is taking, and they may be exploited for an effort to renew its momentum (there are already indications of incitement for Passover). In any event, even if the current Palestinian terrorist campaign declines of its own accord, judging by previous years, popular terrorism ("popular resistance") attacks will continue as long as there has not been a fundamental change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in Judea and Samaria.
For further information, see the May 20, 2013 bulletin "The Palestinian 'Popular Resistance' and Its Built-In Violence" (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20515) and the February 26, 2014 bulletin "Violence and Terrorism in Judea and Samaria, 2013: Data, Characteristics and Trends" (http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20625).
That is the minimum number of attacks that were prevented. The ITIC does not have a complete database relating to all the attacks that were prevented. According to Israel Security Agency data, since October 1, 2015, there have been about 270 significant attacks and attempted attacks, primarily shooting, vehicular and stabbing attacks (Yedioth Ahronoth, Ma'ariv, April 11, 2016)
According to data from the Israeli foreign ministry, since October 2015 there were 1,135 instances of stone-throwing and riots, and 254 instances of attacks involving Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, i.e., hundreds of such attacks every month (as of April 3, year). The ITIC does not have a detailed database of stone and Molotov cocktail attacks.
The ITIC issued three studies profiling the terrorists who carried out attacks inside Israel, in Judea and Samaria, and who were killed rioting against the Israeli security forces. The findings are interim and need to be updated and expanded.
During the second intifada as well, most of those killed in suicide bombing attacks were civilians. Of the 525 people killed in suicide bombing attacks, 513 were civilians and 12 belonged to the Israeli security forces.
A recent example was the detention of thee young Palestinians by the Palestinian security forces in the region of the village of Qatanna (northwest of Jerusalem). Weapons were found in their possession and they were apparently planning to carry out a shooting attack and abduct Israelis. Hamas spokesmen were extremely critical of the detentions, which, they claimed, were intended to suppress the intifada.
A recent example was an Israeli Channel 2 TV interview with Mahmoud Abbas, whose answers were meant for the Israeli public (March 31, 2016). He said that the Palestinian security forces were operating in the schools to prevent young Palestinians from carrying out stabbing attacks.
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, who is also the imam of Al-Aqsa mosque, warned Muslims of the calls of Jewish extremists to visit the Temple Mount before Passover. He claimed Israel's continuing activities targeting the Palestinian holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa mosque, would turn the area into a "time bomb." He accused Israel of trying to empty the Temple Mount of Muslims. He therefore called on Muslims to go to Al-Aqsa mosque to pray and prevent Jewish extremists from visiting it (Watan24, April 13, 2016).