Six months into a deadly wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, officials in Jerusalem said Sunday that new statistics show a significant drop in attacks on Israelis over the past weeks, but stressed that counter-terror efforts would persist.
The last few months have seen a “significant decline” in the number of attacks, including in the number of “significant” attacks, the Shin Bet security service reported.
The Shin Bet said figures showed “only” three significant attacks in April, as compared to 20 in March and 78 in October, at the start of the uptick in attacks.
In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Shin Bet attributed the decline to Israeli efforts to foil attacks, along with “effective deterrent action” and “determined activity to counter Palestinian incitement.”
The agency, which presented the numbers to the government cabinet Sunday morning, said Israel’s counter-terror activity has left the Palestinian public feeling that the “escalation is pointless.”
In a stark departure from the line maintained by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – that incitement and Islamist radicalism are the prime drivers of violence – the Shin Bet said that most of the attackers were motivated by “personal issues,” notably “a dire personal or financial situation.”
Only some of the attacks were carried out due to “nationalistic motives,” the ministers heard in the briefing.
Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday that despite the decline, Israel would continue to wage “very strong action against the incitement among the Palestinian public.”
“This trend can reverse,” he warned.
Over the last six months Israel has faced a spate of attacks, mostly stabbings but also shootings and car-ramming assaults, which have killed 29 Israelis, two Americans and two others. Over the same time, at least 188 Palestinians have died by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with security forces.
According to the Shin Bet official, exposing and apprehending the “Jewish terrorists” behind the deadly attack on Palestinians in the West Bank village of Duma, as well as arson targeting churches, has also helped calm.
The official noted that the situation remained tense and there were “relentless destabilization attempts of Palestinian and other terror elements.”
The Shin Bet published in recent days its statistics on Palestinian attacks for March, counting 123 against Israeli civilians and security forces in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Most of those attacks were firebombings, but the data also covered stabbings, car-ramming attacks, gunfire, improvised bombs and grenades as well as projectile fire from the Gaza Strip.
February saw 155 attacks, compared with 169 in January, and 246 in December, twice the number for March.
The number of fatalities in the attacks has dropped accordingly, with one non-assailant being killed in March, American tourist Taylor Force.
The Shin Bet said it had foiled a number of attacks, including 25 kidnapping attacks and 15 suicide attacks.
It noted Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups has been trying to carry out such attacks. Alongside activities to stop Palestinian attacks the Shin Bet also focused on countering Jewish terror threats, it said.
Over the weekend PA security forces said they foiled a major terror attack by arresting three Palestinians who were heading to Israel carrying grenades and a gun.
Israeli officials have repeatedly complained of incitement to commit terror attacks found in Palestinian media, while Palestinians have leveled the same charges against Israelis.
Last week Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for the renewal of the Trilateral Anti-Incitement Committee, which monitors cases where incitement to violence and terror is suspected, and whose members include Israeli, Palestinian and American officials.
The committee was formed as part of the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, and met every two months until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000.
The PA president’s call for the renewal of the Trilateral Anti-Incitement Committee followed a statement last Monday by Netanyahu calling for the end of “the Palestinian campaign of incitement.”
Netanyahu has been adamant that PA-sanctioned media and school curriculum are responsible for inciting terrorism.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.