Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - Israel, West Bank, and Gaza
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||18 August 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, 18 August 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e52482632.html [accessed 23 May 2015]|
Overview: Israel faced terrorist threats from designated terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Hizballah in Lebanon. Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, and skirmished along the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. The Government of Israel responded to these terrorist threats as it has in recent years, with operations directed at terrorist leaders, infrastructure, and activities such as rocket launching teams. Israeli officials assessed that Hizballah continued to re-arm following the 2006 Lebanon War. No suicide bombings were carried out against Israeli targets. Israeli law enforcement agencies and courts arrested and sentenced a number of terrorist suspects. The Government of Israel emphasized counterterrorism priorities such as countering terrorist finance and improving aviation security efforts. Israel actively participated in regional and international counterterrorism efforts.
Rocket and mortar fire emanating from the Gaza Strip was the most prevalent form of attack by Palestinian terrorist organizations. The Government of Israel held Hamas, as the dominant organization in effective control of Gaza, responsible for all rocket and mortar attacks emanating from Gaza, even though the majority of such attacks were conducted by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Resistance Committees from inside Gaza. Following such attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched reprisal airstrikes targeting terrorist training and weapons facilities, tunnels, and indirect fire launch teams in Gaza. On November 3 and 17, joint IDF/Israel Security Agency (ISA) operations killed two senior leaders of the Army of Islam terrorist group in Gaza. In December, there was a marked increase of rocket and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel with a corresponding escalation of IDF reprisals.
Israeli government officials continued to believe that Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009 helped achieve an increased level of deterrence, as the number of rocket and mortar launches decreased in comparison to years prior to the operation. The number of rocket and mortar launches from Gaza increased, however, during direct peace talks in September. Israeli officials asserted that Palestinian terrorist organizations used the relatively quiet period since Operation Cast Lead to re-arm and reorganize in preparation for any potential future conflict.
The rocket attacks demonstrated technological advancements, allowing groups to continue indigenous manufacturing and stockpiling of rockets at a low cost; the rockets could also be launched from greater distances and with larger warheads. In addition, Iran increased the provision of medium-range rockets. Israeli experts assessed that Hamas successfully smuggled Fajr-5 rockets from the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels into Gaza, and subsequently began producing these rockets in Gaza, which were capable of striking Tel Aviv suburbs. The Israeli Cabinet approved a plan in January to strengthen the Israeli city of Sderot and other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip against rocket attacks. The Israeli public, however, expressed frustration with the IDF's decision not to deploy permanently the Iron Dome short-range rocket interception system to protect communities within rocket range. The use of a state-of-the-art KORNET anti-tank missile fired at an IDF tank on December 6 demonstrated an increased technological capability for Gaza-based terrorists.
Northern Border: Israeli security officials remained concerned about the terrorist threat posed to Israel from Hizballah and its Iranian and Syrian patrons, arguing that Iran, primarily through the efforts of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, continued to employ a sophisticated arms smuggling network through Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon. Israeli politicians and security officials pointed to Hizballah's efforts to rebuild and re-arm following the 2006 Lebanon War as evidence that Hizballah remained a threat to Israel. Israeli government officials claimed Hizballah possessed as many as 45,000 rockets and missiles, some of which are capable of striking Israeli population centers including Tel Aviv.
West Bank: The IDF and ISA continued to conduct operations in the West Bank to maintain pressure on Palestinian terrorist organizations and their supporters. Overall, Israeli security services continued the trend of relaxing movement and access measures in the West Bank. Construction on the security barrier in the West Bank and Jerusalem continued at a low level in some areas.
2010 Terrorist Incidents: Israel faced a variety of terrorist attacks and threats in 2010, including drive-by shootings, rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip, skirmishes along the security fence surrounding Gaza, and in one case an attempted roadside bombing against an Israeli diplomatic convoy in Jordan on January 14. Israel also faced several new types of terrorist threats. During the first week of February, Israeli security forces neutralized three barrels containing explosive devices that washed ashore on beaches near Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Rishon Letzion. Israeli authorities believed terrorist organizations released the barrels into the sea from the Gaza Strip. On June 7, the Israeli Navy killed at least four alleged Palestinian terrorists in wetsuits off the coast of Gaza. The IDF claimed the terrorists intended to carry out an amphibious attack on Israel; the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed those killed were members of its maritime unit.
Terrorist organizations continued to target Israel with rocket and mortar fire from various locales throughout Gaza. In 2010, it was estimated that between 102 and 200 projectiles landed in Israel.
In addition to rocket and mortar attacks, the IDF estimated approximately 100 terrorist-related incidents took place near the security fence surrounding Gaza since the beginning of 2010. These incidents included attempts to place bombs and IEDs along the fence or infiltrate Israeli territory, exchanges of fire, and rocket-propelled grenade attacks.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: In January, the Israel Airports Authority launched a biometric security system for outbound passengers at Ben Gurion International Airport. The Unipass Airport Management System was being tested before gradual expansion to include within two years all departing passengers who voluntarily register.
In December, the Knesset passed a draft bill that withholds the salary and pensions of any Knesset member suspected of or convicted for committing a terrorist attack. It was named after the former chairman of the Balad Party, Azmi Bishara, who was under investigation on suspicion of aiding Hizballah. The draft bill must pass two more readings before entering into law.
In December, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a draft bill, which would empower courts to suspend attorney access to a terrorist suspect for up to 12 months in cases where suspicion exists that the meeting between the attorney and suspect might be used to coordinate a terrorist attack. The new draft bill may move forward following three readings and subsequent votes in the Knesset. The Minister of Internal Security initiated the draft bill; presently, attorney access to a detained suspect may be suspended for several periods of 21 days up to a maximum total period of three months.
On the law enforcement front, the ISA and Israel National Police (INP) continued to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, as well as other counterterrorism initiatives of mutual interest. Highlights included:
In early January, Israeli security forces arrested two Israeli Arab residents of East Jerusalem at the Beersheva Central Bus Station for allegedly planning terrorist attacks on Israeli territory. According to an ISA investigation, the two men possessed a portable memory card with detailed plans for terrorist attacks against a hospital, hotels, and IDF bus stops in Israel; the men were allegedly recruited by Hamas in Jordan and Dubai.
On October 12, the IDF Military Appeals Court found a Palestinian member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades guilty in the murders of three Israelis – two soldiers and one civilian – in two shooting attacks in 2000 and 2002. The court convicted the defendants of voluntary manslaughter, assistance in voluntary manslaughter, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and shooting a person with live fire.
On November 6, a Nazareth court indicted an imam from the Shihab al-Din Mosque and another Israeli Arab for supporting terrorist groups and inciting violence
Countering Terrorist Finance: Israel continued to enforce strong measures to prevent the financing of terrorism. Israel's policy of restricting economic activity with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has sought to reduce inflows of funds that could support terrorist activity. The Government of Israel resumed social security payments to eligible Gazans, an indication of strong coordination among relevant authorities. Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities. Regulation and enforcement of Israel's domestic financial industry is comparable in scope and effect to other highly industrialized and developed nations. Israel has active observer status in the Council of Europe's Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation Of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Israel's Money Laundering Prohibition Authority is a member of the Egmont Group.
Regional and International Security Cooperation: Through the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, Israel worked with Kenya and Uganda promoting such issues as border security, countering radicalization, and the "safe cities" concept - a network of cameras sending live footage to a 24-hour monitoring center. Israel also explored areas of counterterrorism cooperation with the Central Asian republics and the Economic Community of West African States. Israel hosted a homeland security conference with a counterterrorism emphasis in November, which was attended by several African nations, including Nigeria.
Israel agreed to join NATO's Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T), and was active in NATO crisis response, consequence management, and civil emergency planning working groups. Israel conducted a seminar on countering terrorist finance under the EU-Israel European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan, and participated in the EU Security Research Initiative to promote technological developments for counterterrorism purposes. Israel also engaged with the EU on transportation and aviation security efforts, including container security. Israelis participated in the OSCE Action against Terrorism Unit, including an October conference in Astana focused on transnational terrorism challenges. Israel was an active member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and hosted a GICNT event in Jerusalem in June. Israel was active in the Megaports Initiative and participated as an observer in the Gaza Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative.
Bilaterally, Israel participated in the annual U.S.-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group. Israel conducted strategic dialogues, including counterterrorism discussions, with Germany, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, India, Russia, and the United States.
Overview: The primary Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces in the West Bank were the Civil Police, the National Security Forces (NSF), the Preventive Security Organization, the General Intelligence Service, the Presidential Guard (PG), and the Civil Defense. Much of the PA security forces are under the Interior Minister's operational control and follow the Prime Minister's guidance. Israeli authorities, among others, noted continuing improved capacity and performance of PA security forces as a leading contributor to the improved security environment of the West Bank.
Hamas continued to consolidate its control over Gaza, eliminating or marginalizing potential rivals. Gaza remained a base of operations for several terrorist organizations besides Hamas, such as PIJ; Salafist splinter groups, such as Jund Ansar Allah and Jaysh al-Islam; and clan-based criminal groups that engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks. Hamas relied on its internal intelligence, police, coastal patrol, border guard, and military-wing "Executive Force" bodies, probably numbering at least 15,000 in total.
2010 Terrorist Incidents: In 2010, there were multiple acts of violence conducted to achieve political goals by different sub-state actors in the West Bank, both Israeli and Palestinian. There were no attacks targeted against Americans. Attacks included:
On May 4, arson was committed against a mosque south of Nablus in the village of Al Lubban Ash Sharqiya. While perpetrators were never apprehended, it is possible this act was committed in order to stall any political progress related to the Israeli government's 10-month moratorium, imposed in November 2009, on new residential construction in West Bank settlements. This town has no Palestinian Police station and is under Israeli security control.
On August 31, four Israeli residents of the West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai were killed by gunfire while traveling by car in an area under Israeli security control near Hebron. Hamas spokesmen quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.
On September 1, two Israeli residents of a Jordan Valley settlement were wounded in a shooting attack near the West Bank settlement of Kokhav Hashahar in an area under Israeli military control, approximately seven miles north-east of Ramallah. Hamas's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades quickly published a "military communique" claiming responsibility.
On October 4, arson was committed by Israeli citizens against a mosque southwest of Bethlehem in the village of Beit Fajjar, which is under Israeli security control. In addition to fire damage, the mosque was vandalized with Hebrew-language graffiti "revenge" and "price tag."
On October 20, arson was committed against a Palestinian girls' school building south of Nablus in the village of As Sawiya, which is under Israeli security control. The damaged building also had Hebrew-language graffiti: "regards from the hilltops," suggesting the attack was conducted by Israeli settlers.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: In response to the West Bank shootings that occurred August 31 and September 1, PA security forces and IDF personnel mounted large-scale campaigns throughout the West Bank. By noon on September 1, the PA had detained 283 Hamas supporters for questioning; by September 3 that number had grown to 600. PA President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad issued statements condemning each attack. On September 2, President Abbas announced that the PA security forces had tracked down the vehicle used to conduct the August 31 shooting.
The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in the Gaza Strip remained Hamas' continued control of the area and the resulting inability of PA security forces to operate there. No apparent 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.
Limitations on PA counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PA security forces in areas of the West Bank for which the Israeli government retained responsibility for security (some 80 percent of that total land area).
The limited capacity of the PA's civilian criminal justice system also hampered PA counterterrorism efforts. U.S. assistance to police and prosecutors began to have an effect at the local district level in Jenin, where case management improved and backlogs decreased. The PA continued to lack modern forensic capability. Ongoing low-level violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank tested the limited mandates of PA security forces.
The Palestinian Legislative Council has not functioned since mid-2007, and President Abbas issued no decrees related to counterterrorism. However, a Memorandum of Understanding between police and prosecutors was finalized in 2010 that established best practices for working together, and the Ministry of Justice has begun the first re-write of the penal code in 50 years.
Countering Terrorist Finance: The PA continued its efforts against terrorist financing in the West Bank and Gaza by increasing its capacity to detect, analyze, and interdict suspicious financial activity. The Palestinian financial intelligence unit (referred to locally as the "Financial Follow-up Unit" or FFU) continued to build its capacity. The Palestinian Monetary Authority maintained a staff of roughly 80 in the Gaza Strip to conduct on-site bank examinations, including audits of bank compliance with the PA's 2007 Anti-Money Laundering decree. The PA Ministries of Interior and of Awqaf and Religious Affairs also continued to monitor the charitable sector for signs of abuse by terrorist organizations. PA security forces seized nearly US$10 million in cash from Hamas in 2010, according to PA officials. The PA is an observer to the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body.
Regional and International Cooperation: The United States continued to assist the PA's counterterrorism efforts through the capacity building of PA security forces. As of the end of the year, six NSF battalions and one Presidential Guard battalion had been trained and equipped under the auspices of the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC). USSC-run training of NSF battalions took place at the Jordan International Police Training Center in Jordan.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad consistently condemned acts of violence and reiterated their support for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, a former Hamas member who broke with that organization in the 1990s to protest its abuse of religion to justify violence, spoke out publicly against Hamas's rule of Gaza and against attempts to incite violence against non-Muslims. PA efforts to end incitement to violence continued with officials monitoring sermons given in West Bank mosques. There were no such efforts against incitement in Gaza, where the de facto Hamas authorities continued to support and practice incitement in public statements.