(Communicated by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
In 2006, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, directed by its headquarters in Damascus and with political, operational and financial support from Iran and Syria, continued to be the dominant terrorist organization in the planning, organization and implementation of suicide bombing attacks. During the periods when Hamas did not actively fire rockets into Israel, it was the dominant organization in that sphere of operations as well.
In contrast to Fatah and Hamas, the organization did not feel any political constraints, nor did the needs of the Palestinian population commit it to a policy of restraint. It sought to escalate violence even after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas reached the Gaza Strip cease-fire agreement.
The Gaza Strip
The terrorist infrastructures of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip played a dominant role in the firing of rockets at southern Israel. Its objective was to demonstrate its leadership, and to try to create a balance of deterrence between Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Since the cease-fire went into effect at the end of November, the PIJ has retained its dominant role as the organization firing the greatest number of rockets at Israeli settlements. It usually uses the excuse of “response” to the Israeli security forces’ counterterrorist activities in the West Bank, although the agreement relates to the Gaza Strip. The organization has also stated its intentions to escalate rocket fire.
In addition to rocket fire, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip infiltrated terrorist operatives through the Sinai peninsula into Israel, either to carry out attacks or to support the terrorist organization infrastructure in Judea and Samaria
Judea and Samaria
During the past few years, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s infrastructure in Samaria, mainly in the Jenin area and to a lesser extent in Nablus, has been a focal point for dispatching suicide bombers to Israel. Its operatives maintain close contact with the organization’s headquarters in Syria, from whom they receive money to finance their attacks and instructions for carrying them out.
In 2006 and at the beginning of 2007, the Israeli security forces were able to consistently inflict significant blows on the organization’s infrastructure in the Jenin region. Nevertheless, it kept up its attempts to rehabilitate itself, even after the attack on its senior operatives, and to carry out suicide-bombing attacks in Israel. It was also able to carry out anti-Israel operations in the Jenin region.
The PIJ is the only Palestinian terrorist organization that managed to carry out two suicide-bombing attacks in 2006, both at the same fast food restaurant near the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. The attacks, which originated with the organization’s infrastructure in Samaria, killed 11 people. In addition, the organization carried out a suicide bombing attack directed against IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip. The IDF successfully foiled several attempted attacks from both Judea and Samaria and the Gaza strip.
Although the PIJ carried out the greatest number of suicide bombing attacks in 2006, there was a significant decrease in the amount of attacks that were successful, compared to 2005. In that year, the organization was responsible for five such attacks, four of them in Netanya and Hadera. The decrease in the number of attacks was a result of both Israeli security forces’ intensive counterterrorist activities in Samaria and the existence of the security fence, which makes it difficult for the terrorist organizations to infiltrate suicide bombers. Nevertheless, the PIJ cells, especially in northern Samaria, have shown that they can recover quickly and continue to pose a terrorist threat to Israel.
According to Israel Security Agency data, more than 1,000 PIJ operatives were detained in Judea and Samaria in 2006. Of the detainees, 96 were potential suicide bombers. Some of the senior leaders in northern Samaria were killed during counterterrorism actions.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 2007
The attack policy of the PIJ (the second most prominent terrorist organization) is not influenced by the political exigencies influencing Hamas. The organization is responsible for a large percentage of the “routine” rocket fire plaguing Israel, its intention being to disrupt the daily lives of the residents of the western Negev. For example, on September 3, 2007, the day after school began, the PIJ launched several barrages of rockets at Sderot. At the same time the organization attempted to send terrorist operatives into Israeli territory to carry out showcase attacks, such as infiltrating IDF posts along the border and the border crossings.
The PIJ aspires to showcase attacks in Judea and Samaria as well, especially through the use of the terrorist networks in northern Samaria, which formerly played a major role in sending suicide bombers into Israel. However, the Israeli security forces’ intensive counterterrorist activities and the existence of the security fence prevented them from carrying out suicide bombing attacks in Israeli territory in 2007.