Hamas and Islamic Jihad seek to enflame West Bank

A shooting attack aimed at the Israeli community of Bat Hefer on May 29 has led to concerns that terrorist groups are increasingly operating in the West Bank. These types of attacks have spread over the last year. It began with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Jenin and also other armed groups in Nablus, but it has now spread across the northern West Bank. A ramming attack killed two soldiers in the West Bank near Nablus.

It’s important to see the elephant in the room here. The attacks on Bat Hefer are part of a growing number of terror incidents emanating from Tulkarm and the Nur Shams refugee camp. The IDF has carried out numerous raids in this area in the last year. However, the armed groups continue to operate. It appears that Hamas and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad has put down more roots in the West Bank.

West Bank terrorism heating up

The attacks in the West Bank are fueled by Iranian support, as well as other types of outside support such as Hamas in Gaza. Hamas and Iran have wanted to leverage October 7 to increase support for Hamas in the West Bank. The goal is to position Hamas to take over the West Bank when Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority is replaced or leaves office due to old age or other reasons. Hamas is laying the ground work.

Another way that Hamas and terror groups lay the groundwork is through weapons trafficking. In the last year, despite the IDF’s “Break the Wave” operations and the operation in Jenin called “home and garden” last year, the number of illegal rifles in the West Bank has fueled terrorism. These rifles are seen on videos of the perpetrators of attacks, or in photos of Palestinian gunmen who have been killed. They also appear at funerals of terrorists.

The weapons often include M-4 or M-16 style rifles. These rifles are often adorned with modern hardware, such as new rifle sights and also grips. Many of these grips and sights are architecture of rifles that are clearly new, meaning that even if not all the rifles are recent acquisitions, they are being adjusted by terror groups using newly smuggled systems.

A bullet hole in the hood of a car in Bat Hefer. (credit: Courtesy Gad Ohayon)

In recent years the number of illegal weapons found on terrorists in the West Banks or in IDF raids has increased. The types have increased as well, especially the M-4 and M-16 type rifles. These are rifles who have an origin in the West. They are not AK-47s. The prominence of rifles being smuggled into the West Bank illustrates how the terrorists are increasing their access to dangerous weapons. The rifles are so common that the new videos of the attacks from Tulkarm show that the young men easily acquire the rifles. This is a dangerous phenomenon and reminds us of the complacency before October 7 when threats by Hamas were not taken seriously.

The IDF has increased raids into the West Bank and it has been using new methods as well. However, the shooting attacks are a dangerous development. The attacks have also affected Israeli communities that are on the Israeli side of the fence near the northern West Bank.