Israel has assessed that an Iranian-sponsored insurgency group has taken over the northern West Bank.
The Israel Security Agency has determined that Islamic Jihad has imposed control over large parts of the northern West Bank. The agency concluded that Jihad has been operating in areas evacuated by the Israel Army in September 2005.
“The area of northern Samaria has become Jihad land,” ISA director Yuval Diskin said.
On Tuesday, Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Jihad has used the northern West Bank for arms smuggling, training and the production of rockets. Diskin said Jihad increased its activity in wake of the Israeli withdrawal from the area in 2005 and the dismantling of four Jewish communities.
“I’d like to remind the panel that we opposed the withdrawal,” Diskin said.
Officials said Jihad has become the leading insurgency group in the northern West Bank. They said Iran and Hizbullah have poured millions of dollars for an infrastructure to abduct Israelis and send suicide bombers into the Jewish state.
The Israeli withdrawal from the northern West Bank has also damaged the intelligence capability of the ISA and military, officials said. Diskin said Israel’s presence in the area has been virtually nil.
The ISA has expressed opposition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan for a unilateral withdrawal from 97 percent of the West Bank. In August, Olmert said he was suspending the plan to focus on rebuilding northern Israel in the aftermath of Hizbullah rocket strikes.
Diskin said Jihad and other Palestinian insurgency groups have sought to follow Hizbullah’s model in southern Lebanon. He said Palestinian insurgents have focused on smuggling rockets and missiles from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip.
Over the last few months, Diskin said, the Palestinians smuggled 15,000 rifles, 2,300 pistols, 15 tons of TNT, four million munitions rounds, 15 Grad BM-21 rockets, 400 rocket-propelled grenades, 65 anti-tank missiles and dozens of anti-aircraft missiles. He said Jihad and other groups have sought to transfer weapons and plans from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.
“At this point, anybody who wants to smuggle something through the Philadelphi route [Egypt-Gaza border] can apparently do so,” Diskin said. “You can smuggle anything through Philadelphi except maybe a tank or plane.”