Murders prompt new terror fears

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 19, 2009

The murder of two policemen in the West Bank last week has raised fears of a new terror offensive.

David Rabinovich, 42, and Yehezkel Ramzarker, 50, two veteran traffic policemen, were ambushed near Moshav Massua by gunmen posing as motorists.

Both officers were shot at point-blank range when they stopped to investigate a broken-down car. A previously unknown group, Imad Mughniye Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack, but Israeli intelligence sources are dubious about the claim.

After a long break from serious terror attacks in the West Bank, the double murder is seen as a worrying signal that this period of relative calm may be about to end. The shooting took place in the Jordan Valley, the quietest sector in the West Bank, where IDF forces do not use armoured vehicles.

“The fact that we haven’t seen significant attacks in recent months does not mean that the terror organisations have lost their capabilities,” said a senior IDF commander in the West Bank. “The lull is due to increased pre-emptive and intelligence activity and a significant improvement in cooperation with the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“The PA have also arrested many members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and confiscated arms caches. But they are not doing this because they suddenly like us. It is part of the inter-Palestinian power struggle and the PA is afraid of a Hamas coup,” he added.

While talks are going on in Cairo over the forming of a Palestinian unity government, the two main movements, Hamas and Fatah, are still competing for control of the street.

One theory behind the murders is that it was carried out by a group linked to Fatah, which is eager to prove it is as capable as Hamas of striking against Israeli targets. Another possibility is that it was carried out by a Hamas cell, demonstrating that it can still operate in the West Bank.

“Since the start of the Gaza operation, there has been a steady rise in low-level violence in the West Bank. It was just a matter of time before there were more serious attacks,” said the commander.

Last updated: 1:31pm, March 19 2009