There are a couple of major differences between the annual US State Department report on terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza this year compared to other years.
The West Bank and Gaza
Overview: The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts in the West Bank, where Hamas, PIJ, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine remained present. The PA Security Forces (PASF) constrained the ability of those organizations to conduct attacks, including through arrests of Hamas members planning attacks against Israelis. Per Oslo-era agreements, the PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the West Bank. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet arrested members of terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank.
The United States assisted the PA’s counterterrorism efforts by providing training, equipment, and infrastructure support to the PASF. U.S. training and support assisted in the PA’s continued development of professional, self-sufficient, and capable security forces. The United States also assisted the PA with criminal justice investigations and prosecutions of terrorist financing and terrorist-related activity.
Palestinians committed acts of violence and terrorism in the West Bank in 2017. The heightened period of violence from October 2015 to April 2016 decreased in 2017. However, Palestinians continued to commit stabbings, shootings, and vehicular attacks against Israelis.
Israelis, including settlers, committed acts of violence, including “price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups against Palestinians) in the West Bank in 2017.
Hamas maintained security control of Gaza. Several militant groups launched rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza. The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas’ control of the area and the resulting inability of the PASF to operate there.
The PA and PLO continued to provide “martyr payments” to the families of Palestinian individuals killed carrying out a terrorist act. The PA and PLO also provided payments to Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including those convicted of acts of terrorism against Israelis. Israeli government officials criticized this practice as incentivizing acts of terror. These payments and separate canteen stipends that the Israeli government allows for prisoners were first initiated by the PLO in 1965 and have continued under the PA since the Oslo Accords with Israel.
2017 Terrorist Incidents:
In January, four Israeli soldiers were killed and approximately 13 others wounded when a Palestinian man used a heavy truck for a vehicular attack in Jerusalem. Soldiers and a civilian who were at the scene shot and killed the attacker.
In July, a Palestinian resident of a nearby village stabbed and killed three Israeli civilians in their family home in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Halamish. Another member of the family sustained injuries. Police and IDF arrested the attacker after an off-duty soldier shot and wounded him.
In September, a Palestinian man from the West Bank village of Beit Surik shot and killed an Israeli Border Police officer and two Israeli security guards outside the West Bank settlement of Har Adar, northwest of Jerusalem. Israeli security officials shot and killed the attacker at the scene.
“Martyr payments” have never been mentioned before in these reports as a factor influencing Palestinian terrorism. This is a significant addition and one that is long overdue.
Under the Obama administration, Israeli “price tag” attacks were given more attention than Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis that resulted in far more fatalities. In 2015, 81 words were used in a paragraph mentioning the deaths of 16 Israelis, and 180 words in the paragraph about Israeli “price tag” attacks that killed 2 Palestinians. Last year’s report, covering 2016 when Obama was still president but issued under the Trump administration, also gave more space for “price tag” attacks – resulting in zero fatalities – than for the attacks by Palestinians who attacked Israelis, killing 5.
In another notable change from last year, “Jerusalem” is no longer lumped in under the “West Bank and Gaza” section header as it had been in the past.
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