IDF says it has identified Palestinian behind West Bank rocket launches

Military sources say no organized terror group involved in attempts; expert says projectiles aren’t comparable to Hamas’s early Kassam rockets

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A clip published by the so-called Al-Ayyash Battalion purports to show a rocket launched from a northern West Bank village at a nearby Israeli settlement, June 26, 2023. (Screengrab: Telegram)
A clip published by the so-called Al-Ayyash Battalion purports to show a rocket launched from a northern West Bank village at a nearby Israeli settlement, June 26, 2023. (Screengrab: Telegram)

The Israeli military said on Tuesday that it knows the identity of a Palestinian behind attempts to fire rockets on Israel from the Jenin area in the northern West Bank.

On Monday, a video was published on Telegram by a group calling itself the Al-Ayyash Battalion — apparently named for a notorious Hamas bombmaker killed by Israel — showing two crude rockets being launched. Last month, the same group published a similar clip showing a makeshift projectile being fired.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the homemade projectiles did not contain an explosive payload, and they landed within Palestinian-controlled territory, causing no damage. One managed to fly some 100 meters distance, while the second mostly failed and traveled only five meters, the IDF said.

Sources in the IDF told reporters on Tuesday that the recent attempts were largely meant to garner media attention and present an ostensible new threat against Israel.

The sources said there was a known suspect behind the attempt, and it was not linked to any known terror group.

Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies who specializes in missiles and drones, told The Times of Israel that the West Bank rockets were not comparable to early versions of projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel.

“When the whole rocket thing began in Gaza [in 2001], we saw some very very terrible designs and some crude designs, but I’m not sure we saw anything as crude as that,” Hinz said, referring to the video showing the two projectiles being fired from the Jenin area.

“Considering the circumstances, it’s quite difficult to imagine the West Bank going the same way as Gaza with the quality and quantity of production,” he said.

Hinz said it would, in theory, be possible for Palestinians to manufacture “a very primitive rocket” to launch at Israel, similar to Hamas’ original Kassam projectile, but with Israel conducting frequent raids in the West Bank, it would be unlikely they would be able to build more than a handful.

“I would imagine it would be possible to build something less crude than that, especially if you have some sort of experience, technology… knowledge and assistance from the Gaza Strip,” he said.

“It looks like something a guy made in his backyard. If he had a group, I would imagine the quality would be at least sufficient to match the very early Kassam designs,” Hinz said.

Last month, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar said security forces had foiled attempts by Palestinians in the northern West Bank to manufacture rockets to be launched at Israel.

Bar said the efforts were led by a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, who was killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip during a five-day flareup in violence.

“In recent weeks, [the cell] had begun producing rockets and launchers” to fire at Israel, Bar said on May 9, calling it “a dangerous precedent.”

The Shin Bet chief said members of the cell were arrested by Israel and had since confessed. “We don’t intend to let Afula… become a target for [rocket] fire,” he said at the time, referring to a northern Israeli city.

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