Gaza rocket attacks doubled, but terror tally plummeted in 2017, army says

Amid rising tensions with Strip, IDF says last year saw 35 projectiles launched; 99 terror attacks elsewhere, compared to 269 in previous year

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Israelis take cover during rocket attack siren warning in kibbutz Kfar Aza near the Israel and Gaza border, Israel, December 29, 2017. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
Illustrative: Israelis take cover during rocket attack siren warning in kibbutz Kfar Aza near the Israel and Gaza border, Israel, December 29, 2017. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

The army on Sunday released a series of year-end statistics, showing a sharp year-over-year increase in rocket attacks from Gaza alongside a substantial drop in the number of terror attacks from the West Bank.

The yearly tally also showed a significant increase in arrests of Palestinian suspects, though it was not clear if there was also a jump in indictments and convictions.

The army said 35 projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel over the course of 2017, nearly as many as the previous two years combined — there were 15 in 2016 and 21 in 2015.

Police officers locate a rocket that was fired from the Gaza Strip and struck southern Israel on December 17, 2017. (Israel Police)

Most of the uptick has occurred in the last two months, as tensions have risen between Israel and the Hamas terror group that runs the Strip as well as with Islamic Jihad, which also has a large rocket arsenal.

In retaliation to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israel Defense Forces struck 59 targets in the Gaza Strip in 2017, according to the military’s figures, the first full year with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at the helm of the Defense Ministry.

Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from the Strip — though most of it is thought to come from smaller Salafi groups — and often strikes Hamas targets in retaliation.

Illustrative: Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Meanwhile, the total number of terror attacks in the West Bank plummeted to 99 in 2017, from 269 in 2016 and 226 in 2015. Those earlier numbers were largely a product of a wave of stabbing and ramming attacks that began in October 2015 and lasted for several months.

Israeli police at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, Jan. 8, 2017. A Palestinian rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four and wounding 16 (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Sporadic violence has persisted, including several large-scale attacks, such as a Jerusalem truck attack that killed four soldiers on an educational tour in January and a stabbing attack inside the Halamish settlement in July which three members of the same family were killed. There were also a number of periods of heightened tension, including at the end of the year over US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and a summer spate of protests in reaction to an Israeli decision to install metal detectors and other security devices at entrances to the Temple Mount in reaction to a deadly terror attack there.

The army said the number of Israelis injured in terror attacks went down from 263 in 2016 to 169 in 2017. Yet the number of people killed in terror attacks rose to 20 in 2017 from 17 the year before.

The drop in the number of terror attacks in the West Bank came amid a 15 percent increase in the number of arrests, from 3,143 in 2016 to 3,617 in 2017.

The sealing of the first floor of 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, the perpetrator of the deadly terror attack in the settlement of Halamish on July 21, 2017, in the northern West Bank village of Kobar, August 16, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

The left-wing B’Tselem human rights organization also reported that Israeli security forces demolished 105 Palestinian homes in 2017, seven of them as punishment for a member of the family committing a terror attack, the remaining 98 for them having been built without a proper permit.

The army also seized over NIS 10 million ($2.91 million) suspected of being meant to fund terrorist activities, the military said.

Soldiers shuttered 42 workshops believed to have been used to manufacture firearms and seized 455 guns that were illegally owned by Palestinians.

Nearly 1,000 Syrians treated

Over the past year, the army has also brought 927 Syrians into Israel for treatment through its Operation Good Neighbor, which provides assistance to civilians in the Syrian Golan Heights.

In this undated photo provided on July 19, 2017, an IDF soldier attends to a Syrian infant as part of the army’s ‘Good Neighbor’ program to provide humanitarian aid for Syrian civilians on the Syrian Golan Heights. (Israel Defense Forces)

In addition to the people treated under the army’s own program, it has also facilitated the entrance of 2,769 Syrians into Israel for care in an American-run outpatient clinic near the Syrian border.

Over the past year, the Israeli military also helped deliver more than half a million liters of fuel to the war-torn country, along with nearly 700 tons of food, 6,351 packages of diapers, 174 tons of clothing and 13 generators.

More jets, tanks

The army also reported several equipment purchases and upgrades over 2017, including seven F-35 stealth fighter jets, which joined the two that were delivered in December 2016 to bring the total fleet up to nine aircraft.

Last month, the fifth-generation fighter jet was declared operational.

The army also received 30 new Merkava Mark IV tanks and 30 “Namer” armored personnel carriers.

A soldier in the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Corps operates a new drone purchased by the military for company commander. (Screen capture: Israel Defense Forces)

The military purchased 180 small drones for field units in 2017, which were declared operational and deployed beginning this fall.

The IDF also purchased 21,000 new rifle sites.

In the past year, some 280,000 sets of uniforms and 73,000 pairs of boots were distributed to soldiers.

Tens of thousands of uniforms were also returned in 2017, as 75,436 soldiers left the military.

A soldier tries out the IDF’s ‘selfie’ station at the main induction center. (Israel Defense Forces)

Those getting discharged will someday be replaced by the 90,941 teenagers who visited army recruitment centers for their first meeting with the military — in response to receiving what’s known as a tzav rishon — in which they are inspected, tested and interviewed in order to start the process of finding them a unit in which to serve.

In 2017, career officers and soldiers gave birth to 890 babies.

The army’s elite “Oketz” canine unit also saw the birth of 19 puppies.

In addition, 286 people became company commanders over the past year, completing the required training program, 184 of them as part of standing units and the other 102 in reservist companies.

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