Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel is worried about resistance attacks, which strike fear and panic among settlers

September 4, 2023 at 12:00 pm

Military wings of Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip take part in a joint military exercise, on December 29, 2020 in Gaza City, Gaza [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli political, security and military officials are claiming that this is the “most difficult” year for the occupation state since 2005 in light of the outbreak of resistance attacks targeting occupation soldiers and illegal settlers. Since the beginning of this year, 36 Israelis have been killed and more than 140 others have been wounded.

This has angered soldiers and settlers, who are easy targets on the roads they take through Palestinian towns. The Israeli security establishment is trying to solve this dilemma by blocking access to these roads for members of the resistance groups, but there is no way that a soldier can be stationed every 100 metres or so on every highway.

It is now said that one of the biggest threats in the West Bank is the increase in drive-by shooting, rather than roadside bombs, missiles or anything else. This has become a major issue for settlers, whose own vehicles can meet those used by resistance groups at any time. In the aftermath of attacks, cars are set on fire to destroy evidence, and the fighters melt back into the surrounding Palestinian community.

READ: Hamas condemns ‘open-ended Israel war on prisoners’

Now it is being said that many Israelis believe that the current escalation in attacks is a result of the absence of a viable deterrence factor. The Palestinians, it is known, no longer fear Israel and its army. Moreover, resistance fighters only withdraw after making sure that they have had a serious effect against the settlers — whose presence is illegal under international law — making life difficult for the army and security forces.

Because such attacks are often deadly, the resistance groups use this tried and tested tactic. At least 23 battalions of troops are said to have been deployed in an effort to prevent attacks taking place. The norm across the occupied West Bank is thirteen battalions aiming to provide settlers with a sense of security while driving.

Countermeasures include raids to seize weapons being made in machine shops and armed incursions such as that which took place in Jenin earlier this year, as well as efforts to prevent resistance fighters from accessing the roads in the first place. While the army is not pushing for offensives against the Palestinians, senior officers understand that it cannot do without them. That’s why they also push for the Palestinian Authority to be supported, as its security cooperation is in Israel’s best interests and can help to reduce the number of attacks.

Bypass roads to avoid Palestinian villages and towns are also being built for the thousands of settlers who drive around the occupied West Bank every day. Concrete blocks are being placed at major intersections to restrict ease of travel for Palestinians. 

One factor to take into account is the fact that Palestinians are sometimes inspired by individual acts of resistance to do something similar themselves. When this happens, the attackers are not necessarily affiliated with any faction or resistance group. This makes them unpredictable, and is a cause for fear and panic among Israelis, especially settlers. The concern is that “inspiration” attacks may spread to the centre of the apartheid state, making it necessary for security personnel to be on high alert at all times, which drains resources and morale.

READ: Jerusalem: 3 Palestinians killed and 132 detained in August

Escalating tension in the occupied Palestinian territories is very much part of the state’s official policy. The intention is to finalise plans to eliminate legitimate Palestinian resistance altogether, whether through more settler-colonial projects; building and expanding illegal settlements; displacing more Palestinians, especially from occupied Jerusalem; or completing the gradual, illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Although the Israeli occupation authorities have mapped out the spread of attacks based on intelligence reports, with a focus on Nablus and Jenin, such data cannot be measured through the place where fighters are coming from. The degree to which ordinary Palestinians interact with the attacks is important, which can be judged by the number of people who go out to confront the occupation army during its armed incursions.

In conclusion, the occupation state does not hide that it is essentially concerned about more Palestinians joining the resistance and carrying out attacks in other areas. The goal of the resistance groups, however, is to escalate the situation as much as possible to the level of the days of the First and Second Intifadas.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.