Palestinian rock attacks on the rise since UN settlement vote

West Bank sees dramatic increase in stonings following Security Council resolution, Kerry speech and talk of moving US embassy to Jerusalem

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.

Illustrative photo of Palestinians throwing rocks at an Israeli vehicle in 2013. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Palestinians throwing rocks at an Israeli vehicle in 2013. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The West Bank has seen a sharp rise in the number of violent attacks, primarily rock-throwing incidents, since an anti-settlement resolution was passed on December 23, 2016 by the United Nations Security Council, Israeli defense officials said.

The rise was recorded in the last week of December 2016 and the first week of January 2017, an increase security forces say is mostly due to exam season in Palestinian high schools. They note, though, that it is a larger increase than in the same period in previous years.

In September 346 rock-throwing attacks were recorded, in October 375, in November 420, and in December 344. Most of the December attacks occurred in the final week of the month. In the first week of January there were 169 recorded attacks, a pace that, if maintained, would lead to almost 700 attacks by the end of the month.

The rock attacks were also linked to a series of anniversaries taking place around now, including that of Fatah’s founding and first terrorist attack on January 1, 1965, and of the assassination of Yahya Ayyash, Hamas’s chief bomb maker, on January 5, 1996.

Nevertheless, the political context cannot be dismissed. On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334 demanding an end to settlements in the West Bank. A few days later, on December 28, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech warning of the dangers of settlement expansion. Finally, Palestinians have been agitated by ongoing discussion about the possibility the US embassy will be moved to Jerusalem after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The past few months have also seen an uptick in shooting attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank. In September there was one, October and November had four each, and in December there were six. Most of those attacks were local initiatives, unaffiliated with any serious terror organization.

Most strikingly, there have been a relatively large number of attempts to carry out organized terror attacks, mainly by Hamas. In 2016 Israeli security forces prevented some 100 serious terror attacks, not including the attacks prevented by the Palestinian Authority. Those thwarted attacks were designed to ignite a full-blown intifada, so far without success.

The officials also noted continued unrest among the Palestinian public against both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, saying that the atmosphere remains as tense as ever.

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