Shin Bet and IDF brass reportedly warned a top Knesset panel on Tuesday to brace for a security escalation in the coming months, as the West Bank endured one of its bloodiest days this year.
An unnamed official who testified before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee told lawmakers that the security establishment expects a rise in both the scope and professional nature of Palestinian attacks, Channel 12 reported.
Five Palestinians were killed on Tuesday, with one of them shot dead after carrying out a car ramming that seriously injured a soldier near the central West Bank settlement of Migron. The four others — including two brothers — were killed in what the army said were clashes with troops in nearby villages.
Meanwhile, Shin Bet and police were operating extensively in East Jerusalem on Tuesday in what Channel 12 said signaled an advancement in efforts to nab the terror cell responsible for planting the two IEDs that went off at separate Jerusalem bus stops last week, killing two civilians and injuring more than a dozen others.
Despite the ostensible progress, Channel 12 reported that the security establishment is still concerned about the potential for copycat attacks as well as the possibility that terror groups will dispatch members to carry out shooting attacks throughout the West Bank, where tensions have long been heightened.
The Shin Bet security agency is particularly concerned over the fact that both the recent terror attack in Ariel and Tuesday’s ramming near Migron were carried out by Palestinians with Israeli work permits.
The security agency has long argued in favor of continuing to allow Palestinians to work in Israel and West Bank settlements in order to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian economy.
Notably, during testimony given before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a security official assured lawmakers that the Palestinian Authority is stable and continues to function, Channel 12 reported.
This would seem to contradict the warning Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar reportedly gave to prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month when he cautioned about the possible collapse of the PA.
Despite the more optimistic outlook regarding the PA’s stability, the security official told MKs that the next government should still work to strengthen the PA, as it is an Israeli security interest.
That message is not likely to sit well with senior members of the incoming hardline coalition, such as likely finance minister Bezalel Smotrich and likely national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who have long spoken in favor of dismantling the PA. They both support annexing large parts of West Bank territory without granting equal rights to the Palestinians living there.
Tuesday’s hearing was headed by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s interim chairman, Likud MK Yoav Gallant, who is Netanyahu’s rumored pick to become the next defense minister.
Tensions have been high in the West Bank over the past year, with the IDF launching a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year.
The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left more than 150 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
Last month, the UN Mideast envoy said 2022 is on course to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN started tracking fatalities in 2005.
At the same time, there has been a steep rise in settler attacks against Palestinians and security forces.