Evyatar Borovsky, an actor and security guard from the settlement of Yitzhar, who was stabbed to death on Tuesday, was the first Israeli killed in a terror attack in the West Bank in nearly two years.
Hours later, Israel carried out the first “targeted killing” of a terror operative in Gaza in five months.
Although both incidents marked the end of significant lulls in certain kinds of violence, neither are seen by Israeli security officials as signs of an escalation in the West Bank or on Israel’s southern border.
Mr Borovsky, who was 31 years old, was killed at the Tapuach Junction near the town of Ariel while waiting for a lift.
The murderer, Salam Azuol from Tul Karm, grabbed Mr Borovsky’s pistol and started shooting at a Border Police post. He missed and, when the police returned fire, was shot and severely wounded.
According to the initial investigation, Azuol, a member of the Fatah movement, acted on his own initiative. His motive, aside from killing Israelis, could have been an attempt to “clear” his family’s name after his brother was accused of collaborating with Israel.
Following the murder, settlers in the area embarked on a widespread rampage which included burning Palestinian-owned fields and stoning their cars.
The settlers’ Yesha Council said the murder was “a direct continuation of the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and the forgiving attitude [of the Israeli authorities] towards stone-throwing attacks”.
While there has been an increase in stone-throwing against Israeli vehicles in the West Bank, and in “local” terror attacks, security officials say that the co-ordination with the Palestinian Authority security apparatus remains “close and useful” and that the main terror organisations have so far not succeeded in rebuilding their networks in the West Bank.
A couple of hours after the stabbing, a pinpoint airborne attack took place on the Gaza Strip coastal road, close to a Hamas training camp. The death of Hitham Mishal, 29, who was hit while riding his motorbike, was the first “targeted killing” carried out by the Israeli Air Force and the Shin Bet in the five months since the end of Operation Pillar of Defence last year in Gaza.
According to IDF sources, Mishal — who worked as a police officer — supplied rockets to jihadist groups operating in Gaza and Sinai and had provided the Grad rockets that were fired at Eilat two weeks ago.
Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said following the attack that Israel “will not allow a trickle of rockets from the Gaza Strip, and we will certainly not allow terrorists to leave Gaza and attack Eilat”.
Over the past five months, the ceasefire around Gaza has generally been observed but there have been sporadic attacks by jihadist groups which flout the authority of the Hamas government. One of these groups fired five mortar rounds in retaliation to Mishal’s killing but none of them hit targets in Israel.
Israeli security sources said that, due to Mishal’s “freelance” role, they did not expect any major retaliation.