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Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - West Bank and Gaza

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 May 2013
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - West Bank and Gaza, 30 May 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51a86e6116.html [accessed 30 September 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank. Hamas, PIJ, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) remained present in the West Bank, although the improved capacity of Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) constrained those organizations' ability to carry out attacks. The IDF continued arresting members of terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank. Gaza continued to be administered by Hamas; and Hamas, PIJ and Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) launched attacks against Israel from Gaza.

Palestinian militants initiated attacks against Israelis inside the West Bank and Israel. Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted, according to UN and NGO sources. The ISA reported a total of more than 750 of what it defined as terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank against Israeli citizens from January through November. Of these, more than 700 involved firebombs; but the attacks also included shootings, stabbings, grenade and IED incidents, and rock throwing. According to Israeli authorities, despite continued violence, for the first time since 1973, an entire year passed without an Israeli fatality from a terrorist attack in the West Bank.

The primary PASF services operating in the West Bank were the Palestinian Civil Police, the National Security Force (NSF), the Preventive Security Organization, the General Intelligence Service, the Presidential Guard, the Military Intelligence Service, and the Civil Defense. Based on available payroll numbers, PASF forces in the West Bank numbered approximately 29,000. Much of the PASF were under the Interior Minister's operational control and followed the Prime Minister's guidance, while others reported directly to the PA president. Israeli authorities, among others, noted continuing improvements in the capacity and performance of PASF as a leading contributor to the improved security environment in the West Bank and a dramatic reduction in terrorist incidents in and emanating from the West Bank over the past six years. The United States continued to assist the PA's counterterrorism efforts through capacity building programs for PA security forces, which included training, equipping, and provision of infrastructure to PASF personnel in the West Bank. U.S.-funded training of PASF also took place in Jordan at the Jordan International Police Training Center, and at the Prince Hussein Bin Abdullah II Academy of Civil Protection in Jordan.

Hamas continued to consolidate its control over Gaza, eliminating or marginalizing potential rivals. Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza smuggled weapons, cash, and other contraband into Gaza through an extensive network of tunnels from Egypt. Gaza remained a base of operations for several violent extremist splinter groups, such as Tawhid wa Jihad and the Mujahedin Shura Council; and clan-based criminal groups that engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks.

During the year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad consistently reiterated their commitment to nonviolence and recognition of the State of Israel. They continued to support a security program involving disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank.

In August, six Palestinians were wounded after a fire bomb was thrown at their vehicle near the West Bank settlement of Bayt Ayin, and two Israeli settlers, both minors, were arrested by Israeli authorities in connection with the crime. Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon described the incident as a hate crime and a terrorist act. In July, UN officials and several local NGOs issued a statement noting that Israeli settler violence against Palestinians had risen sharply, by nearly 150 percent since 2009. More than 90 percent of the complaints filed against settlers in recent years have not been addressed, according to the UN. In 2011, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak labeled settler acts as having "the characteristic of homegrown terror;" several months earlier, IDF Head of Central Command Avi Mizrahi labeled attacks against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank as "terror" and ordered the administrative deportation of a dozen Israeli settlers from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. In 2012, four mosques in the West Bank, and five churches in the West Bank and Jerusalem were vandalized in apparent "price tag" attacks carried out by Israeli settlers in retribution for Israeli government actions they perceived as against their interests.

There were multiple acts of violence conducted by different sub-state actors in the West Bank, both Palestinian and Israeli, and Gaza-based militants attacked Israel. Attacks included:

  • In March, a 19-year-old female IDF soldier was stabbed while riding the Jerusalem light rail in a suspected terrorist attack.

  • On March 31, four Palestinians were hospitalized after they were attacked by Israeli settlers near the Mikhmas junction outside Ramallah.

  • On June 19, settlers reportedly set fire to the main mosque in the West Bank village of Jabaa in Ramallah governorate.

  • On August 22, 17 year-old Palestinian Jamal Julani was beaten into an unconscious state by a group of Israeli teenagers reportedly yelling racist slurs in Zion Square in Jerusalem. Israeli vice premier Moshe Ya'alon condemned the incident as a terrorist attack.

  • On September 4, pro-settler vandals thought to be participating in a "price tag attack" set fire to the entrance door of the Latrun Monastery outside of Jerusalem, spray-painting the names of West Bank outposts and "Jesus is a monkey."

The PASF detained terrorists in the West Bank and PA authorities tried some detainees in civilian and military courts. Despite factional reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, PASF personnel continued to detain Hamas elements in operations often protested by Hamas officials.

  • In February, after the PASF arrested several high profile Hamas members in the West Bank, Hamas released a statement demanding that Fatah stop its "irresponsible" acts.

  • In May, according to press reports, Israel's Shin Bet published a report saying that it had intercepted and broken up three militant cells in Hebron City.

  • In June, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denounced what he called an "arrest campaign" against Hamas activists in Halhoul and Hebron. Hamas media sites reported that PASF personnel summoned nearly two dozen Hamas members for interrogation.

  • In September, PASF discovered and seized an underground bunker used by Hamas members in the northern West Bank village of Urif reportedly being prepared as a place to hide a kidnapped IDF soldier or Israeli settler.

  • In late September, Hamas officials issued a statement saying that the PASF had arrested its supporters who reportedly participated in "violent riots" against the PA during protests against economic conditions in the West Bank. In total, Hamas claimed that the PASF arrested 184 of its members in September.

  • In October, the PASF confiscated documents and weapons belonging to Hamas in a residential area of Nablus.

  • On December 3, West Bank Hamas official Rafat Nasif said publicly that the PASF continued its political arrests "despite the talk about reconciliation."

No progress was made in apprehending, prosecuting, or bringing to justice the perpetrators of the October 2003 attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in Gaza that killed three U.S. government contractors and critically injured a fourth.

The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas' continued control of the area and the resulting inability of PASF to operate there. Limitations on PA counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PASF in and through areas of the West Bank for which the Israeli government retained responsibility for security under the terms of Oslo-era agreements. The limited capacity of the PA's civilian criminal justice system also hampered PA counterterrorism efforts.

The PA continued to lack modern forensic capability. In late 2012, the Canadian International Development Agency, through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, began project activity on a multi-year project to initiate forensic criminal capacity within Palestinian law enforcement.

U.S. efforts to train and equip the PASF have provided them with new tools to enforce law and order and counter terrorism. U.S.-trained NSF special battalions have been instrumental in ongoing PASF law and order and anti-terror efforts since 2008, and security campaigns designed to root out terrorist and criminal elements across the West Bank have been widely praised for improving security and returning normalcy to major West Bank urban areas. In January and February 2012, the PASF successfully conducted their first operations since 1997 in the Israeli controlled TITLE section of downtown Hebron City, and arrested several dozen suspected criminals. U.S-trained PASF maintained public order in 2012 during Palestinian demonstrations surrounding the anniversary of Israeli Independence known as "Nakba Day."

The PA continued to increase its capacity to combat illicit finance. Terrorist financing is not specifically addressed in current law, but the PA is drafting appropriate legislation and can prosecute terrorism-related offenses, such as financing, under current laws. The Palestinian Financial Intelligence Unit, known as the Financial Follow-up Unit, added additional staff and continued building its technical capacity while conducting outreach to other parts of the PA on anti-money laundering/countering terrorist finance. The PA, an observer to the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, submitted its application for membership and was given an action plan for attaining membership. The banking sector in Gaza continued to repel Hamas attempts to influence and tax the sector. The PA Interior and Awqaf and Religious Affairs Ministries monitored the charitable sector for signs of abuse by terrorist organizations.

According to the PA's Palestinian Broadcasting Company's code of conduct, no programming is allowed that encourages "violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex." The PA continued its efforts to monitor and control the content of Friday sermons delivered in over 1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse or incite violence. The PA's ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon its location, and it has limited authority to control the context of sermons in Israeli-controlled Area C.

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