Terror attacks tripled after Trump Jerusalem recognition, Shin Bet stats show

Figures released by security service show 249 incidents in December, most of them firebombings, compared to 84 in November

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

Illustrative: Police officers close off the area around Jerusalem Central Bus Station, after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard there, on December 10, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Police officers close off the area around Jerusalem Central Bus Station, after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard there, on December 10, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The number of security incidents in Israel and the West Bank tripled following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to new statistics released by the Shin Bet security service.

On December 6, Trump made his announcement regarding Jerusalem, sparking violent protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and along the Gaza border.

Throughout the month of December, there were 249 terror attacks in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel, as compared to 84 in November and 71 in October, according to the Shin Bet’s statistics, which were released this week.

A Palestinian man, wearing a suspected suicide vest, is carried into an ambulance after he stabbed a soldier and was then shot in the West Bank town of al-Bireh on December 15, 2017. (Oren Ziv/AFP)

The most serious of these were two stabbing attacks, one at the Jerusalem bus station in which a security guard was stabbed in the heart and seriously wounded, and the second during a violent protest on the outskirts of Ramallah when a man wearing what appeared to be a suicide bomb vest — but was later found to be a fake — stabbed a Border Police officer in the shoulder, moderately injuring him.

In its monthly report, the security service did not connect the increase to Trump’s announcement or to any other motivator. However, last month, the head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman said Trump’s declaration contributed to the unrest in the West Bank.

Speaking to the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he predicted that it would be a “a highly unstable period for the next six months at least.”

The Ramallah stabber died of his wounds so his specific motive is unknown, though the Palestinian terrorist who stabbed the security guard in Jerusalem told interrogators he decided to carry out a stabbing attack after hearing about Trump’s announcement.

Head of the Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, right, speaks at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is led by Likud MK Avi Dichter, left, on December 24, 2017. (Screen capture)

According to the security service, the vast majority of December’s attacks — 219 of them — were firebombings. This is similar to November, when 72 of the 84 recorded attacks were cases of Molotov cocktails being thrown at Israeli security forces and civilians.

The rest of the incidents in December were stabbings, shootings, improvised explosive attacks and — in the case of Gaza — rocket and mortar barrages.

The Shin Bet noted a significant increase in the number of attacks from November to December in the West Bank (53 to 178), the Gaza Strip (one to 15) and Jerusalem (29 to 56), but not in the rest of Israel proper, where there was a decrease, from one attack to zero.

The internal security services’ figures did not match those released by the Israel Defense Forces for 2017, which showed that 99 terror attacks total took place in the past year. This apparently stems from the Shin Bet including more minor incidents, like Molotov cocktail attacks, in its monthly statistics, which the army did not include in its year-end review.

The Shin Bet also includes in its figures terror attacks that take place inside Jerusalem, which the IDF does not, as the army’s counter-terrorism responsibilities effectively end at the border of the West Bank, the so-called “Green Line.”

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

The army’s 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)

According to the Shin Bet’s statistics, 19 of those 35 rockets and mortar shells were fired in the month of December alone.

The army said the total number of significant 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 several months.

Israeli police at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, Jan. 8, 2017, where 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 the current one over US recognition of Jerusalem, 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 the house 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.

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