FRESH AIR

Terror wave reaches Tel Aviv

Apr 8, 2022 | Ahron Shapiro

Scene of the attack in Tel Aviv (Photo: Twitter)

The number of Israelis killed in the latest terror wave has increased to 13 after a shooting attack outside a pub in central Tel Aviv on Thursday night (April 7) claimed two lives. The terrorist, Raad Fathi Zidan Hazzam – a Palestinian from the Jenin Refugee Camp with reportedly no prior criminal record – was located in Jaffa after a massive citywide manhunt for the gunman and killed in a shootout with members of the Israeli internal security agency Shin Bet several hours after the attack.

The death toll may yet rise as several of the eight wounded in the attack are in critical condition.

The Hebrew news site Walla reports that authorities believe Hazzam’s attempt to use Ramadan prayers at a Jaffa mosque as a way to escape showed advance planning, and his knowledge of the area and also raises the possibly that he was aided by Israeli Arabs.

As in the case of the shooter in the March 29 Bnei Brak terror attack, Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed the terrorist as one of their own, but did not take credit for planning the attack and did not claim the association with the terrorist until his identity was revealed, suggesting that the attack may have been launched on the terrorist’s own initiative. To complicate matters, terror groups have sometimes claimed affiliation with “lone wolf” attackers to bolster their image in the eyes of other extremists. However, nothing can be ascertained or ruled out without a proper investigation.

Initial reports stated his father Fahti Hazzam – who expressed pride in his son’s attack – had served time in Israeli prisons for terror offences, and was now a commander for the Jenin district of the Palestinian Security Forces and a prominent local member of the PA’s ruling Fatah faction.

Since my previous blog post about the latest terror wave, Israeli security forces have prevented at least ten terror attacks, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said on April 4. That number has almost certainly risen considerably higher since then. This effort has included massive anti-terrorism arrest operations deep in the West Bank.

There is a worry that the terror wave will be difficult to defuse in the short term, particularly with the onset of the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan on April 1, Yohanan Tzoreff, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), wrote on March 30. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Islamist terror groups have often used Ramadan as an opportunity to incite violence, using the Muslim holy site of the Al Aqsa Mosque as a rallying point. In last year’s escalation, Israel’s military operation Guardian of the Walls came after Hamas launched rockets at Jerusalem during Ramadan.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) noted that the Palestinian Authority had inflamed tensions in recent days. Quoting from the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, an ITIC report stated: “PA government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said that on the eve of [the Muslim religious month of] Ramadan, IDF soldiers again and again invaded Palestinian cities, villages, refugee camps and towns to kill and frighten [Palestinians], and to defile the holy sites”

Those interested in reading more about the terror wave and Israeli security efforts to address it shouldn’t miss the April 4 report for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs “The Current Terror Wave in Israel: Main Characteristics and Implications”. Written by Israeli intelligence expert and former Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs Yossi Kuperwasser, the report posits that the Palestinian Authority may try to exploit the terror wave but may not be in a position to control it, among other valuable insights.

Also, in a related post well worth reading at the JCPA,  Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi examines the Israeli coalition partner, the Arab Islamist Ra’am party’s apparent difficulty in coming out strongly and unequivocallyagainst the terror wave in all the party’s social media platforms.

Looking at the way the terror wave has been seen in Washington, Elie Cohanim, the former US Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department under the Trump Administration, criticised the Biden Administration in a piece for Newsweek for making a “moral equivalency” between Israeli settlement activity and Palestinian terrorism.

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