Shin Bet: Hopelessness fueling recent Palestinian attacks

Security service says there’s no leadership or organization to ‘lone wolf’ terror wave that killed 11 Israelis in October

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A screen capture from a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday, October 10, 2015 in which three police officers were injured, one of them seriously. The assailant was shot dead. (Screenshot/Channel 2)
A screen capture from a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday, October 10, 2015 in which three police officers were injured, one of them seriously. The assailant was shot dead. (Screenshot/Channel 2)

The Shin Bet security services said that a “bleak reality,” along with personal problems and false rumors spread on social media, has been driving the current wave of grassroots Palestinian terrorism that has killed nearly a dozen Israelis and injured over 80.

In a report Tuesday summarizing data covering the attacks during the month of October, the Shin Bet concluded that perpetrators largely fit the profile of lone wolf” attackers: young, single, not affiliated with any organization, and with no previous history of security-related incidents.

Despite there being some 60 attacks in October, the assaults show a “lack of organizational-political framework for a clear, coherent conceptual plan of action, or an organized leadership, leading the protests,” the report said.

Feelings of national discrimination, as well as economic, personal and psychological problems, provide motivation for the attacks, the report said, and noted that seven of the attackers were women.

“For some terrorists, attacks allow an escape from a bleak reality which they perceive as unchangeable.” Meanwhile, the attackers have been “drawing inspiration from social media incitement, including incitement from Palestinian Authority officials,” the report said.

In addition, there is an element of the “copycat effect” common to social media trends, leading to crimes that aren’t “organized or institutionalized” but “have the character spontaneous, popular” actions.

At the forefront is “incitement and the spreading of false rumors about an Israeli attempt to harm the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which provides much religious, symbolic motivation, and redirects violent protests and terrorism in the direction of the State of Israel,” the report said, referring to the mosque that lies within the volatile Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, holy to bother Jews and Muslims.

The perpetrators “live on the web,” the Shin Bet noted, and are sustained by information, circulated on the Internet, which promotes the Palestinian claim that the attackers are victims of “Israeli aggression” and that they were “executed.” The report spoke of a type of feedback loop wherein each attack that ends in the attacker’s death spurs others to carry out new attacks, in which they too are killed.

According to the Shin Bet figures, 10 Israelis and one foreign national were killed in terror attacks during October and over 80 were injured. Over 90% of those who carried out attacks were men, 10 were married and one was divorced. A large majority — 82% — were between the ages of 16 and 25. Among the others, two were teenagers aged 13 and 14, and three were aged 15.

Nearly three-quarters of attackers were Palestinian residents of the West Bank, and almost a quarter were residents of East Jerusalem. A small minority were Arab citizens of Israel.

Two-thirds of the attacks were in Jerusalem and 38% inside Israeli territory. There were 56 stabbings or attempted stabbings, 18 shooting attacks and four car rammings. In two of the attacks the terrorists both shot at and stabbed their victims. In addition, there was one attempt to use a gas balloon as a bomb and another incident involving an improvised explosive device.

According to figures released by the Foreign Ministry, citing the Magen David Adom paramedic service, aside from fatalities there were 158 people wounded from the beginning of October until November 10. Of those hurt, 20 were seriously injured and a further 72 were treated for anxiety symptoms.

The violence began two months ago amid tensions surrounding the Temple Mount. In mid-September, Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces at the site on a near-daily basis. By October, the violence escalated to stabbings and shootings, mainly in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but central Israel has also seen some attacks.

Palestinians claim Israel is planning to change the status quo on the Mount, where Jews can visit but not pray. Israel has vehemently denied the claim.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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