A secret report by one of the Palestinian security services – obtained by Ynet – paints a worrying picture of a possible explosion in terror in the West Bank in the coming year. The report warns that there is a high probability of a third intifada erupting in the territories if the current round of US-backed peace talks is unsuccessful.
The warning is a grim echo of the situation in September 2000, with the start of the second intifada and years of bloodshed for Israel and the Palestinians. The violence began barely weeks after the breakdown in the Camp David negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Barak and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, under the auspices of Bill Clinton who was in the twilight of his final term as president.
The report’s authors recommend that the Palestinian civilian authorities and the security services draw up a plan to cope with any escalation in demonstrations, in order to reassure the public that the Palestinian Authority is properly positioned to deal with such events.
According to the report, if the current round of negotiations fails, there will be marked rise in “spontaneous attacks” in 2014. The authors believe that Hamas will change its strategy and shift resources away from its civilian programs to covertly resume its militant activity in the West Bank – but only if the hitherto unsuccessful reconciliation efforts between.
The new Hamas strategy is directed from the Gaza Strip, its stronghold, as well as abroad, primarily by prisoners released in the deal to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. At its heart is a plan for the military arm of the organization to focus on carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli targets, rather than the suicide bombings that characterized much of the second intifada and drew a massive IDF response.
The report claims that the first objective of the military wings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is to kidnap an Israeli soldier or civilian and hold him hostage in the West Bank, with the hope of exchanging him for Palestinian prisoners.
The document highlights that the current mood in the Palestinian sphere encourages this form of activity, because of the desire for a solution to the prisoner problem, and because of the understanding that this issue will not have a political solution at any point in the near future.
The secret assessment also describes the fears of Palestinian security services that terror cells will expand their activities into the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, as well as the areas near Jerusalem, because the Palestinian security services cannot operate there, and the Israeli military presence is minimal.
Hezbollah in West Bank
The authors of the report expect Hamas to export their technological information and data on the manufacture of rockets from the Gaza Strip to their activists in the West Bank. They believe, however, that Hamas would only use these rockets in the case of an all-out confrontation with Israel or if a vital senior operative is assassinated.
The report also warns of increased activity by Salafi jihadist organizations, who are expected to build infrastructure for Salafi cells to operate a terror campaign against Israel from the West Bank. These cells are partially comprised of ultra-radical former Hamas members who have shifted their allegiance to a more extreme camp.
These new terror cells receive directions from Salafi operators in the Gaza Strip. The report warns of the potential recruitment of students and young Palestinians studying abroad in countries which have an al-Qaeda presence. It also highlights the danger posed by Palestinians fighters returning from fighting for the rebels in Syria.
Some of the Palestinians who answered the call to jihad in Syria had sided with Jabhat al-Nusra, a radical branch of al-Qaeda operating against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The report warns of the possibility that they may set up al-Qaeda terror cells upon their return to the West Bank.
The document further warns that in the wake increasing tensions between Iran and Israel, and the deteriorating relationship between Iran and Hezbollah over the civil war in Syria, Hezbollah will attempt to set up sleeper cells in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by recruiting Palestinians living abroad. The authors surmise that these cells would be used to gather information and would be deployed in line with the organization’s strategy on Israel.