Ramadan an opportunity for Hamas to ignite second October 7 in West Bank

The Israeli defence establishment and police are preparing for a range of security scenarios


Palestinian students supporting the Islamist Hamas movement wave the movement's flag as they celebrate a victory in student elections at Birzeit University on the outskirts of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on May 19, 2022. - Hamas's Al Wafaa Islamic bloc won 28 of the 51 seats on the student council at Birzeit University, marking the first time Islamist-aligned candidates have gained control of the body. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP) (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) The Israeli defence establishment and police are preparing for a range of security scenarios during the traditionally tense Ramadan month, which begins on the evening of March 10, give or take a day, as the war against Hamas in Gaza rages on.

So far, Hamas has failed to ignite the West Bank with violence, and it views Ramadan as a new opportunity to do that – both in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

It will likely try to stress religious fundamentalist themes to call on Palestinian masses to take part in violent actions, and rally under the banner of the “Al-Aqsa Flood” (the name Hamas gave its October 7 attack).

Hamas hopes to get hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the streets to take part in rioting.

The Israel Defence Forces is well aware of this intention and is preparing accordingly, with stepped-up numbers of battalions operating in the West Bank.

In the West Bank, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the IDF and Border Police have been busy conducting large numbers of security raids to disrupt terror cells before they mature into deadly attacks.

For example, on Tuesday, security forces apprehended a high-ranking terrorist in Balata near Nablus, following intelligence that he was planning an imminent attack with fellow suspects, the IDF said.

On the same day, a terrorist stabbed an Israeli at the Yitzhar Junction, before being shot dead by soldiers on the scene.

The IDF Central Command, which has jurisdiction over the West Bank, has been busy with a severe wave of terror attacks that long preceded October 7.

The wave of terrorism stretches back to March 2022 and includes a spate of attacks within the West Bank and Israel.

A defence source told JNS in recent days that security forces in the West Bank are in the midst of an intense effort to combat terrorism, including raids and arrests.

The long-lasting wave of terror, the source said, is being fuelled by the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, with some areas in West Bank being no-go zones for its security forces, such as Jenin and the Balata camp.

The defence source also pointed to a new, young Palestinian generation, who feel alienated from “everything,” he said – both Israel and the PA.

According to the source, this is a generation that did not experience 2002's "Operation Defensive Shield," carried out by the IDF in the West Bank in response to a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings that claimed hundreds of lives. It is a generation that has not seen tanks in the streets of Palestinian cities in West Bank or large-scale destruction of homes.

Meanwhile, a surge of weapons has flooded the West Bank, entering mostly from the Jordanian border, but also some stolen from IDF bases, and some produced in local Palestinian workshops.

On top of this combustible mix, terrorist organisations remain highly motivated to conduct attacks. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are attempting to orchestrate terrorism from abroad, though this effort has been significantly hampered by the IDF’s operations in Gaza, the source stated.

Iran is investing money to get weapons into the hands of terrorists as well and tries to help direct and carry out attacks, alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad. According to the defence source, in the past six months, weapons that originated from the radical Shi’ite axis have been seized in Judea and Samaria.

If this were not enough, the source described large-scale incitement to violence underway amoung the Palestinian public, fuelled further by scenes from Gaza, and tensions that date back to before the current war. These influences can produce "lone wolf" terrorists who attack with knives or other weapons, while the threat of organised cells exists as well.

The IDF describes organised cells as part of “terrorist infrastructure" and is engaged in nightly raids to thwart it, whether in Hebron, Bethlehem or anywhere else in Judea and Samaria. The cells usually receive instructions, weapons and money from outside of West Bank.

Since October 2023, the IDF and Shin Bet have thwarted around 250 terror cells in West Bank.

A third kind of threat also exists – armed groups of localised terrorists, who receive assistance from established terror factions, and from Iran, but who operate on their own. These usually spring up where the PA is especially weak, the source said, turning camps into terrorist hornet’s nests.

They build observation command rooms and plant explosives under roads, which the IDF routinely neutralises during security raids. These areas are filled to the brim with weapons and explosives. In such places, a hierarchy often emerges, with a commander taking charge and building greater capabilities. Such groups are responsible for many attacks, the source said.

The Lions' Den group in Nablus is a well-known example of this kind of threat. In Jenin, the group there calls itself The Camp’s Sons, or the Jenin Brigade.

In effect, the war in Gaza has significantly enabled the IDF to step up its security raids, since the Central Command no longer has to alert the Southern Command, which is responsible for Gaza, about potential terrorist casualties in raids – casualties that, before the war, could have sparked a subsequent rocket escalation from Gaza.

This means that the IDF in the West Bank conducts more raids, more robustly, particularly in the camps against organised armed groups.

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