Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001 - Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip

Traditionally, Israel has been one of the United States' staunchest supporters in fighting terrorism. September 11 reinforced US-Israeli security cooperation in this area. There is no known al-Qaida presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat forcefully denounced the September 11 attacks. Even HAMAS publicly distanced itself from Usama Bin Ladin.

Israeli-Palestinian violence escalated in 2001, and terrorist activity increased in scale and lethality. Israel responded to terrorist attacks with military strikes against PA facilities, targeted killings of suspected terrorists, and tightened security measures, including roadblocks and closures of Palestinian towns and villages.

HAMAS conducted several suicide bombings inside Israeli cities from March to June, culminating in the attack outside a Tel Aviv nightclub on 1 June that killed 22 Israeli teenagers and injured at least 65 others. On 9 August, HAMAS mounted a suicide attack in a Jerusalem pizzeria, killing 15 persons and wounding more than 60 others.

Attacks by the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) against Israel were similar to those of HAMAS. They included car bombings, shooting attacks, and suicide bombings. In general, PIJ operations were significantly less lethal than those of HAMAS. The PIJ claimed several shootings during the year, including an attack on 4 November in which a PIJ member ambushed an Israeli bus carrying schoolchildren in the French Hill section of East Jerusalem. The attack killed two children, including one dual US-Israeli national, and wounded at least 35 other persons.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) raised its profile in 2001. It carried out car bombings in Jerusalem, few of which caused serious injury. The PFLP, however, assassinated Israeli cabinet minister Rehav'am Ze'evi in an East Jerusalem hotel on 17 October, purportedly in retaliation for Israel's killing of its leader, Abu Ali Mustafa.

Members of the Tanzim, which is made up of small and loosely organized cells of militants drawn from the street-level membership of Fatah, conducted attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank over the course of the year. In mid-March, Israel arrested several Tanzim members who confessed to participating in at least 25 shootings over a five-month period. Some Tanzim militants also were active in al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in the West Bank – mainly shootings and roadside bombings against settlers and Israeli soldiers. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also claimed credit for at least one mortar attack.

Other secular Palestinian entities carried out terrorist attacks in 2001. Israel announced in the fall that it had detained 15 members of a terrorist squad linked to the Iraq-based Palestine Liberation Front. In early May, the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) tried to smuggle weapons into Gaza aboard the Santorini. Apparently unaffiliated Palestinians also committed acts of political violence. For example, on 14 February, a Palestinian from Gaza, employed by Israel's Egged civilian bus company and with no known links to any terrorist organization, drove his bus into a group of Israeli soldiers at a bus stop killing eight and wounding 21 persons.

Israeli Arabs, constituting nearly one-fifth of Israel's population, appeared to have played a limited role in the violence in 2001. On 9 September, Israeli Arab Muhammad Hubayshi conducted a suicide attack at a train station in Nahariyah. HAMAS claimed credit for the attack. Israeli Arabs generally refrained from aiding and abetting terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza, however. At year's end, Israel indicted four Israeli Arabs linked to rejectionist groups, although they were uninvolved in terrorist operations or planning.

Jewish extremists attacked Palestinian civilians and their properties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2001. The attacks claimed the lives of Palestinian civilians and destroyed Palestinian farmlands, homes, businesses, and automobiles. In April, six Israeli policemen were wounded when settlers blew up a Palestinian shop. In late November, Israel's Shin Bet security service assessed that five Palestinians were killed and fourteen wounded in attacks that were likely staged by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Investigations into many of these attacks produced inconclusive results, leading to several arrests but no formal charges.

During 2001, Israeli military forces killed more than two dozen suspected terrorists affiliated with HAMAS, the PIJ, Fatah, or the PFLP. An unspecified number of Palestinian civilians also were killed in the strikes.

Unlike the pre-intifadah era, when Israeli-PA security cooperation was generally effective, PA counterterrorism activities remained sporadic throughout the year. Israel's destruction of the PA's security infrastructure contributed to the ineffectiveness of the PA. Significantly reduced Israeli-PA security cooperation and a lax security environment allowed HAMAS and other groups to rebuild terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories.

PA security services did thwart some attacks aimed at Israelis. They also discovered and confiscated some caches of weapons and explosives. But violence continued throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, resulting in almost 200 Israelis and over 500 Palestinians killed in 2001.

Early in December, the White House called upon Arafat to take "meaningful, long-term and enduring action against terrorists operating out of Palestinian territory." On 16 December, Arafat issued a public statement urging adherence to his call for a cease-fire. This was followed by PA arrests of dozens of HAMAS and PIJ activists, although the conditions of their arrest and the military role that some of them may have played remain unclear. The PA also closed some social services centers run by HAMAS and the PIJ. In December, and under pressure from the PA, HAMAS announced that it would halt suicide attacks within Israel. It retained the option of continuing operations against Israel inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, however. The top PIJ leadership inside and outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip did not endorse Arafat's call for a cease-fire agreement.

(In January 2002, Israeli forces boarded the vessel Karine-A in the Red Sea and uncovered nearly 50 tons of Iranian arms, including Katyusha missiles, apparently bound for militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.)


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