Firing rockets towards the sea (Twitter account of Muhammad Khaled)
Firing rockets towards the sea (Telegram channel of the joint operations room of the Palestinian "resistance" factions)
UAVs (Telegram channel of the joint operations room).
Naval operations (Twitter account of Mamduh Abu Twitter account of Mamduh Abu Mamduh).
Military activities along the shore (QudsN Facebook page)
The year 2020 was a challenge for the Palestinians because of political developments and the coronavirus epidemic. During the year the extent of terrorism was relatively moderate and within the confines of popular terrorism. Despite the rise in the number of terrorist attacks, fewer attacks were lethal. In Judea and Samaria 40 terrorist attacks were carried out, up from 34 in 2019. Three Israeli were killed (two civilians and one IDF soldier), down from five in 2019 and 12 in 2018. During 2020, 46 Israelis were wounded (down from 66 in 2019 and 83 in 2018). In the Gaza Strip there was a significant decrease in the number of rockets fired and in attacks carried out near the border, as well as in violent, controlled events (return marches, and the launching of IED and incendiary balloons). According to Israeli Security Agency figures for 2020, 430 significant terrorist attacks were prevented in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, down from 564 in 2019.
- There were a number of political processes which could have influenced the extent of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria:
- Donald Trump’s “deal of the century:” On January 28, 2020, Donald Trump formulated a plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan promised the Palestinians the establishment of a state with limited authority over security, leaving Israel extensive authority in Judea and Samaria, with full control over 38% of the territory, including the Jordan Valley, which in the future would fall under Israeli sovereignty. The PA rejected the deal of the century and refused to consider the United States as a mediator for resolving the conflict.
- Israel’s intention to impose its sovereignty on the territories in Judea and Samaria which were supposed to remain under Palestinian sovereignty according to the American plan: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to impose Israeli sovereignty on territories in Judea and Samaria in accordance with the American plan. In the agreement which led to the formation of the national unity government in Israel in May 2020, the territories would fall under Israeli sovereignty after July 1, 2020. In response the Palestinian Authority (PA) ended both its commitment to agreements already signed with Israel and joint civilian security coordination, and refused to accept the tax revenues Israel collects for the PA. However, the Palestinians apparently had a change of heart, possibly for the following reasons: Israel decided not to impose its sovereignty, given the lack of American backing and in view of having signed the Abraham Accords (see below). In addition, the election of Joe Biden brought the Palestinians hope for an American administration with a more sympathetic approach. Finally, the PA’s financial crisis made it necessary to accept the tax revenues, which was accompanied by the renewal of civilian security coordination with Israel.
- The normalization agreements Israel signed with Arab states (the Abraham Accords): On September 15, 2020, Israel signed a peace and normalization agreement with the UAE and a declaration of peace, cooperation and the institution of diplomatic relations with Bahrain. The agreements were a severe blow for the PA, which was forced to realize that acceptance of the Palestinians’ conditions was no longer a factor in Arab states’ dealings with Israel. The agreements also made it clear that the Palestinian cause no longer headed the Arab agenda.
- In addition, the Covid-19 crisis began in March 2020, which affected the Palestinians as well. The PA and the Hamas administration in Gaza had to deal with the spread of the virus and the accompanying economic and humanitarian crises. Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to suspend coordination with Israel exacerbated the situation. Both the PA and the Hamas administration blamed Israel for the crisis: Hamas claimed Israel was responsible for the sorry state of its medical services (ignoring the fact that for years it has given preference to the “needs” of its military-terrorist wing at the expense of the needs of the civilian population); the PA claimed Israel spread the virus in Judea and Samaria, including by means of Palestinians who worked in Israel.
- Each of the factors noted above was of itself explosive. However, despite the PA’s ongoing encouragement of popular terrorism and Mahmoud Abbas’ strong position against Israel (beginning in May 2020), Judea and Samaria have remained relatively quiet. That is mainly because there is apparently less motivation than in the past to carry out terrorist attacks, and also because of Israel’s successful activities in preventing them. The Gaza Strip has also been relatively quiet, with the exception of rockets sporadically fired by the so-called “rogue” organizations. Threats to renew launching IED and incendiary balloons were issued from time to time to remind Israel not to delay the transfer of the Qatari millions to the Gaza Strip and to demonstrate that the commitment to the struggle against Israel is still relevant.
Judea and Samaria
- During 2020 the number of significant terrorist attacks increased by 17%, after five consecutive years during which they had decreased. Forty terrorist attacks were carried out, up from 34 in 2019. Most of the attacks were part of what the PA calls “popular resistance” (i.e., popular terrorism), this is, most attacks do not include live ammunition (throwing stones, Molotov cocktails, stabbing and vehicular ramming attacks). The majority of the attacks were carried out by lone wolf terrorists and not by organized networks. In 2020 the level of lethality declined: three Israelis were killed (two civilians and an IDF soldier), down from five killed in 2019.
- Stabbing attacks continued as the most widespread type of popular terrorism attack in 2020. There were 19 stabbing attacks (similar to 2019). They made up 48% of all attacks, down from 56% in 2019. There were six vehicular ramming attacks (about 15% of all the attacks), five shooting attacks (about 12%), six instances of the use of IEDs, two combined attacks and two attacks of other types. However, there were more than 1,000 instances of stones or rocks thrown at Israeli vehicles on the roads in Judea and Samaria, and about 200 instances of the throwing of Molotov cocktails.
- General Aviv Kokhavi, the IDF Chief of Staff, in summing up 2020, told reporters that from a security standpoint it was one of the quietest years, with the lowest number of Israelis killed. That was mainly a consequence, he said, of the coronavirus epidemic, which led to a dramatic decrease in terrorism in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yedioth Ahronoth, December 11, 2020). According to the Israeli Security Agency, in 2020 430 terrorist attacks were prevented in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, down from 564 in 2019. Of the attacks prevented, 283 were shooting attacks, seven were stabbing attacks, ten were vehicular ramming attacks, 62 involved IEDs and five were planned abductions (Israeli Security Agency website).
- To a great extent, in addition to good preventive activities, the relatively low number of attacks reflects the general decline of the Palestinian public’s willingness to participate in terrorist activities and protests against Israel. Despite the political events and coronavirus epidemic, the Palestinian public in Judea and Samaria seems to be more interested in their daily lives than in politics, and attempts to recruit them for protests or terrorist attacks have had limited success.
Annual Distribution of Significant Terrorist Attacks
*134 significant terrorist attacks were carried out between October and December 2015, which were the first three months of the wave of popular terrorism attacks. The remaining 37 significant attacks carried out between January and October 2015.
Distribution According to the Type of Attack, 2020
The Gaza Strip
- During 2020 there was a significant decline in the number of rockets and mortar shells launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory: there were 196, of which 113 were launched during the round of escalation between February 23 and 24, 2020, during which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operated on its own. In 2019 there were 1,403 launchings, the year with the highest number since Operation Protective Edge (July to August, 2014). Popular activities as well (return marches, and the launching of IED and incendiary balloons) decreased significantly in 2020 almost to the point of stopping completely.
- The main reasons for the decline in terrorist attacks have apparently been Hamas’ promoting understandings for an Egyptian-mediated lull, attempts to improve economic conditions in the Gaza Strip (although not at the expense of the Hamas military-terrorist wing’s military buildup). The PIJ was also relatively restrained during the year. However, the relative quiet is fragile. Difficulties in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, in promoting understandings with Israel, or delays in the transfer of the Qatari millions to the Gaza Strip are all potential causes of instability and may lead to the renewal of rocket fire or another round of escalation.
Annual Distribution of Rocket Fire from the Gaza Strip (2006 – 2020)
Monthly Distribution of Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire, 2020
 The full document can be found in Hebrew on the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center website. ↑
 Information about the throwing of stones, rocks and Molotov cocktails is partial and based on reports from the Israeli security forces on the ground. ↑