ISRAEL: One Terrorist Attack from Operation Defensive Shield 2

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 10.03.05 AMHopefully we will come to their aid when Israel needs it.

This current intifada, or “present wave of terrorism,” as it is known among military circles, has been anticipated by the defense establishment for the past year. There wasn’t one army briefing which I attended that didn’t include warnings of how Judea and Samaria had become “a powder keg.”

A year ago, the IDF began preparing for this level of unrest. One possible scenario that kept defense officials awake at night was an attack by a Jewish extremist similar to what was witnessed in the West Bank village of Duma.

“If they tell me, ‘You have an additional battalion of reinforcements,’ then I immediately deploy it to Judea and Samaria,” a senior military official told me last year.

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Just before March of this year, the combination of a stalled peace process and the freezing of tax revenues to the West Bank fueled a very real concern that we were on the verge of a violent Palestinian uprising. After the Duma tragedy, the reassessment changed, with the focal point being the Temple Mount.

The defense establishment was ready for this scenario as well. Nonetheless, there are some very serious questions that have gone unanswered, questions regarding how we still got entangled in this complex set of circumstances.

How does a defense establishment – which has proven itself capable of “threading the needle” and plucking out a wanted terrorist from a Palestinian hospital in an operation worthy of a Hollywood action flick – show itself to be inept at stopping a terrorist cell that had already carried out attacks in the past before gunning down the Henkin couple?

This is certainly a story that is worthy of the label “intelligence failure.” The fact is that senior officials in the defense establishment acknowledge that they do not have the tools to deal with the current situation. The cell responsible for the attack near Itamar is a small, ad hoc, and localized entity that was not operating under the auspices of an organization. It was not being funded by anyone, nor was it guided or instructed by any party.

This was simply a group of terrorists, one of whom just happened to be a Hamas member. Experiences shows that the smaller these cells are, the harder it is to find out about them through intelligence channels. The members of this particular cell kept a low profile. Of the three terror attacks they tried to execute, one succeeded.

How does one deal with a situation where two terror attacks take place in the same vicinity within a few days of each other, as happened on Saturday at Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Police were well aware of the potential that tensions could spiral out of control, which is why it beefed up its forces with the most capable officers.

Still, despite the police’s efforts, how does a terrorist manage to sneak into the area with a knife hidden in her possession, pick a target, and carry out the attack? Why wasn’t there a security check at the entrance to the gate? Why is there no deterrence despite the presence of hundreds of police?

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