A new kind of terrorism

The killing of Seraiah Ofer marks the fourth time in a month that Israelis have been targeted by alleged Palestinian terrorists in apparent sporadic, improvised attacks

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

The scene of the Jordan Valley terrorist attack, early on October 11, 2013 (photo credit: Walla news screenshot)
The scene of the Jordan Valley terrorist attack, early on October 11, 2013 (photo credit: Walla news screenshot)

In the aftermath of the murder overnight Thursday of retired IDF colonel Seraiah Ofer in the Jordan Valley, early indications suggest that the incident was the latest in a series of sporadic terror attacks carried out by assailants using improvised weapons rather than by organized terror groups. Monique Mor, Ofer’s wife, who heard the assailants speaking outside their home in the Brosh Habika vacation village late Thursday, said they used axes and iron bars to carry out the killing — not “classic” murder weapons.

The suspicion, when looking at what have now been four terror attacks in the West Bank in the past month, is of a new phenomenon: Terrorism that is not carefully premeditated by an organization such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad — rather, attacks by Palestinians acting independently, bent on murdering Israelis, be they soldiers or civilians.

That was the case with the killing near the West Bank village of Qalqilya last month of off-duty soldier Tomer Hazan, whose murderer worked with him at a Bat Yam restaurant, allegedly lured him to his family’s home village, strangled him, threw his body into a well, and went home to sleep. Then came the single sniper shot that killed IDF soldier Gal Kobi while he was on duty in Hebron. And finally the apparently amateurish attack, with an improvised weapon, that lightly injured nine-year-old Noam Glick at her home in Psagot on Saturday night.

There is no known direct connection between any of these attacks, and no reason to believe that any of the assailants knew each other — which only complicates the task of the security authorities in tracking down all those responsible. Some of those involved may have no record of terrorism, and no contacts among known terrorists, weapons experts, or terror cells.

Seraiah Ofer (photo credit: screenshot Channel 10 news)
Seraiah Ofer (photo credit: screenshot Channel 10 news)

These assailants are springing up from beneath the radar of the security services, to fatal effect.

The calls on the right of the political spectrum to halt the diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian Authority offer no practical solution. Indeed, every day that passes without a diplomatic solution constitutes additional motivation for these killers: The absence of a sense of optimism about progress, continued settlement construction, and the intermittent deaths of Palestinians in clashes with the IDF all contribute to the atmosphere that produces such attacks.

An additional, critical factor is the relentless incitement against Israel in Palestinian media and social networks. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces are making almost daily arrests among the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even Fatah ranks, confiscating weaponry, and displaying a surprising capability in the field.

Last Saturday, for instance, hundreds of PA security personnel raided the Jenin refugee camp, conducting house-to-house searches for weaponry. On Thursday, PA forces raided the home there of a prominent Hamas security prisoner, Jamal Abu al-Hajah, and attempted to arrest his son — actions unlikely to endear the PA to local residents. And yet Fatah’s Facebook pages overflow with praise for terrorists, including suicide bombers, who have murdered Israelis. Thus, the PA acts against terrorism while simultaneously encouraging it.

At the peace table, there are no signs of a breakthrough or of any significant progress, apart from rumors of some advances on the subject of water. And at his meeting with Labor MKs in Ramallah on Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated a new readiness to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — when the Americans deem that the time is ripe.

PA sources say that it is the US mediator, Martin Indyk, who has been unenthusiastic about a top-level summit, fearing it would end in failure, but the Americans might be coming round.

Meanwhile, Abbas is said to be threatening that if the second of the four agreed phases of Palestinian prisoner releases is delayed, he will revive his efforts to advance Palestinian statehood and interests via the UN and associated forums.

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