1. This study analyzes anti-Israeli terrorism in 2007, an important, continuing influence on the country’s political agenda. It includes analyses of the terrorist attack policies and the modus operandi of the various terrorist organizations and networks (Palestinian terrorist organizations, Hezbollah and global jihad). It also analyzes the factors influencing the extent and nature of the terrorism against Israel in 2007 and the trends of the first months of 2008.
2. Terrorist organization policies and modus operandi, 2007:
i) Rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip continued as the Palestinian terrorist organizations’ preferred form of attack. In 2007, 896 hits were identified in Israeli territory, compared with 946 in 2006, the year with the largest number. During the past two years there was a substantial increase in rocket fire compared with 2001-2005, the years before the disengagement. The trend continues in 2008. There was also a significant increase in the amount of mortar shell fire, another continuing trend. Rocket and mortar shell fire is relatively less lethal than suicide bombing attacks but has a devastating effect on the daily life and sense of security of the 200,000 residents of the western Negev.
ii) Palestinian suicide bombing terrorism, which was the dominant form of attack during the first years of the current confrontation, has continued declining since the peak of 2002. (There was one such attack in 2007, in the southern city of Eilat, and one so far in 2008, carried out in the southern city of Dimona, compared with four in 2006 and 55 in 2002). That was also manifested by the conspicuous decrease in the number of suicide bombing attacks prevented by the Israeli security forces. In addition, the decrease in number of Israelis killed in suicide bombing attack also continued (three in 2007, compared with 15 in 2006 and 220 in 2002).
iii) Mass-killing attacks and abductions: In 2007 there were sporadic infiltrations into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, whose objective was to kill Israeli civilians and soldiers near the border and, should the opportunity present itself, to abduct Israelis. On August 25 such an attack was prevented by the IDF at Netiv Haasara, a village near the Gaza Strip’s northern edge. Several attempts to abduct civilians and soldiers in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria were prevented. In 2008, however, there has been an increase in the number of mass-killing attacks, such as Dimona (carried out by suicide bombers), Jerusalem (the shooting attack at the Mercaz Ha’Rav yeshiva), and at border crossings, settlements and military targets near the security fence in Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
iv) In Judea and Samaria there were a number of shooting attacks, two of them fatal. One occurred near Hebron on December 28, 2007, killing two IDF offduty soldiers on a walking trip. The other was a drive-by shooting which killed an Israeli civilian near the settlement of Kedumim on November 29, 2007. However, many attacks in 2007 were relatively “simple” from an operational point of view, due to the terrorist organizations’ operational weaknesses, and consisted of IEDs, stabbings (one fatality) and “cold” attacks (Molotov cocktails and stones.)
v) Hamas and secondly, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad continued as the dominant terrorist organizations. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has avoided attacking Israel since the second Lebanon war in the summer of 2006, focusing instead on rebuilding its military infrastructure. Global jihad networks which have gained a foothold in Lebanon carried out a number of attacks against Israel and UNIFIL. In Judea and Samaria there was no significant global jihad activity against Israel.
3. Thirteen Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks in 2007, seven civilians and six members of the security forces, continuing the decrease in the number killed in terrorist attacks since the 2002 peak of 453 dead. Two hundred and ninety-one individuals were wounded in terrorist attacks in 2007, most of them members of the security forces. However, in 2008 there has been a significant increase in the number of Israelis killed as a result of the current escalation of the terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip and the improvement in Hamas’s operational capabilities (during the first four months of 2008 15 Israeli civilians and eight members of the security forces were killed).
4. In 2007 Hamas accelerated the military buildup of its military-terrorist wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which focuses on terrorist attacks against Israel and defense against the IDF; and of the internal security apparatus (i.e., the Executive Force integrated into the police), Hamas’s main arm for internal control, and which supports the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas’s military buildup is manifested in a variety of ways: an increase in training (including sending operatives to Iran and Syria), improving its underground tunnel system, acquiring weapons and smuggling them into the Gaza Strip (especially standard rockets and advanced anti-tank missiles) and developing and manufacturing weapons (improving the range and penetration of rockets, manufacturing powerful explosive devices and anti-tank weapons, etc.).
5. In Lebanon, the military buildup of Hezbollah and the activities global jihad networks were particularly conspicuous.
i) Hezbollah: In 2007 Hezbollah continued to avoid attacking Israel, focusing its efforts instead on rehabilitating its military infrastructure, and adapting its activities to the new situation created in the south by the second Lebanon war. Particularly conspicuous was the construction of a new rocket arsenal in south Lebanon. With its construction, Hezbollah completed arming itself with the same quantity of rockets it had (20,000) on the eve of the second Lebanon war, and in our assessment, now possesses far more. The rehabilitated arsenal was built with the support of Iran and Syria and is a formidable threat to Israel as far south as Tel Aviv, and even to the southern part of the country.
ii) The global jihad: In 2007 global jihad networks worked intensively to strengthen their position in south Lebanon. After the Lebanese government successfully uprooted Fatah al-Islam from the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in north Lebanon, the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon became the focal point for organization and activity of global jihad-affiliated networks. In 2007 and the beginning of 2008 global jihad groups attacked Israel and UNIFIL a number of times. Two of the more conspicuous attacks were rocket fire targeting Kiryat Shemonah in June 2007 and Shelomi in January 2008. However, their potential for causing damage is much greater.
Factors influencing Palestinian terrorist policy, its scope and nature, 2007
6. Two important factors influencing Palestinian terrorist policy in 2007 were the Israeli security forces counterterrorist activities and the dramatic developments in the internal Palestinian arena. Both continue to influence Palestinian terrorism in 2008.
7. The successful Israeli security force counterterrorist activities in Judea and Samaria led to a reduction in the number and severity of terrorist attacks. In the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, where there is no permanent Israeli security presence, extensive rocket and mortar shell fire continued. The trends of increasing rocket and mortar shell fire improving their quality rose in 2008. As a result, the number of Israel casualties caused by rocket and mortar shell fire increased.
8. In Judea and Samaria the security forces maintain counterterrorist activity pressure which includes the detention of wanted terrorists, exposing weapons and killing the terrorist operatives who resisted detention. Successful counterterrorist activities and finishing many sections of the security fence led to a continued decrease in suicide bombing terrorism. In many cases, the operational weakness of the terrorist organizations forced them to make do with relatively “simple” attacks such as shootings, stabbings, laying IEDs, and throwing Molotov cocktails and stones. The Palestinian security forces’ activities, despite their ineffectiveness, also contributed to the difficulties faced by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Judea and Samaria.
9. In the Gaza Strip, which is the focal point of anti-Israeli terrorism, the Israeli security forces increased the level of their counterterrorist activities during the second half of 2007. There were no major operations but rather air strikes and ground activities limited in time were carried out. They included the targeted killings of terrorist operatives; attacks on weapons and ammunitions stores, workshops and weapons-manufacturing lathes; strikes against rocket launching squads; attacks on terrorist bases and offices; the detention of suspected terrorists and the exposure of tunnels dug to smuggle weapons. Although the IDF’s activities in the Gaza Strip made it difficult for the terrorist organizations to carry out attacks, they did not stop the rise in the number of rockets fired and did not stop Hamas’s military buildup or the improvements in its operational capabilities (as was illustrated by the first months of 2008).
10. Another important factor influencing Palestinian terrorism in 2007 was the dramatic developments in the internal Palestinian arena which occurred concurrently with the continuing peace process, which reached its high point at the Annapolis meeting on November 27. The most important internal Palestinian developments were the schism between Hamas and Fatah, the Hamas military takeover of the Gaza Strip in June, which came after a series of violent incidents, and the brutal oppression on Fatah and the Palestinian Authority security services. Following the takeover, Hamas established a Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip (“Hamastan”) which is in constant confrontation with Abu Mazen’s PA.
11. The dramatic events in the Gaza Strip weakened Abu Mazen’s PA, hampering his ability to make effective progress in a peace process with Israel and enabled Hamas to force its agenda on the Palestinians. Its agenda is based on non-recognition of the State of Israel and using terrorism to achieve its aspirations, i.e., the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state on the ruins. Hamas’s Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip, whose ideology and policies are different from those of the PA headed by Abu Mazen in Judea and Samaria found itself isolated by the international community and even the Arab and Muslim world (with the exception of Syria and Iran, which support it politically, militarily and financially).
12. The terrorist policy of Hamas, which enjoys unprecedented freedom of action in the Gaza Strip, is influenced by the continual tension between its administrative responsibilities, which force it to respond to the population and to cope with internal and external threats to the Gaza Strip; and its strategic-political and ideological goals, which commit it to maintaining its jihad identity by continually attacking Israel, even when the terrorist attacks clearly harm the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
13. Hamas resolves that fundamental tension by continuing attacks (mainly rocket and mortar shell attacks) while controlling their dosage, keeping them at a level which will not drag Israel into a broad military action in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, inspired by Hezbollah’s achievements in Lebanon during the second Lebanon war, it has accelerated the pace of its ongoing military buildup, hoping that will enable it to fight the IDF successfully when the latter enters the Gaza Strip. The buildup is made possible by the Iranian and Syrian support of Hamas (and the other terrorist organizations), partly the result of the Egyptian government’s ineffective response, which did not prevent the smuggling of weapons, money and terrorist operatives into the Gaza Strip through Rafah Crossing and the tunnels dug under the Philadelphi Route.