Escalation or Adaptation? Palestinian Terror Wave Raises Critical Questions

“Resistance to the IDF is increasing…[our fighters] have located the IDF’s weak points,” crows Palestinian terror chief after Jenin battle.

By Baruch Yadid | | Topics: palestinians, War on Terror
This week's battle in Jenin should be a wake-up call to Israeli leaders. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS
This week's battle in Jenin should be a wake-up call to Israeli leaders. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS

(TPS) The use of a specialized 40 kg bomb in an ambush of Israeli soldiers in Jenin on Monday indicates an escalation of Palestinian violence, at least according to the Palestinian leaders. But one Israeli analyst is questioning that thinking.

Seven Israeli soldiers were injured by an explosive buried under the road during an arrest raid in the northern Samarian city. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the bomb was considerably larger than the explosives normally used. The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for placing the bomb.

After the explosion, the IDF was forced to call in an air strike by an Apache attack helicopter to cover the evacuation of the wounded soldiers. It was the first time since 2002 that the military used combat helicopters to carry out open air strikes in Judea and Samaria.

The terror groups of Jenin and northern Samaria, it has emerged, have gained experience in identifying IDF weak points, mapping out expected routes and waiting areas, and using more sophisticated explosives. Cameras have also been stationed to monitor targeted vehicles.

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The Palestinian Authority Governor of Jenin, Akram Rajoub, told the Tazpit Press Service that “resistance to the IDF is increasing and the armed squads are gaining a lot of experience and it seems that they have located the IDF’s weak points.”

Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziad al-Nakhla said from Iran on Monday that the battle in Jenin “is of great importance, because despite the modest abilities, the heroes of Jenin proved their high ability.”

There is further evidence of the preparation of more explosives in the Jenin area by both Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine.

Several weeks ago, Islamic Jihad placed an explosive charge very close to the place where the Israeli vehicles were ambushed on Monday. TPS has learned that the terror group took advantage of the soft ground where there is no asphalt, on a dead-end road.

While visiting the injured soldiers, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Tuesday that “all options are on the table.”


Changing the rules of the game

However, Yair Ansbacher, a PhD candidate in modern warfare at Ariel University, told TPS that Monday’s ambush reflects armed Palestinian groups identifying patterns in IDF activity and adapting accordingly.

“The Palestinians are learning the modus operendi of the IDF. It’s a basic concept of warfare not to do something twice, or course the same thing three times. If you do something again and again in the same specific way, the enemy will adapt. That’s the real story here,” Ansbacher said.

“So in a way, it’s a good thing what we saw yesterday because the price was not as heavy as it could have been. It could easily have been a horrible disaster. A lot of people could have died. People didn’t die, they got wounded, and that’s the price you have to pay for being a late learner, a late adapter. The IDF will have to change it’s way of working in the northern Samaria area,” he added.

Asked how the IDF would respond, Ansbacher said, “I would look closely in the areas of Judea and Samaria in the next days because the IDF will probably try to do something else, something different.”

He dismissed the ambush as an escalation, saying that involves risks to Islamic Jihad and other armed groups that Iran is not ready to accept at this time. “The proxies are a kind of insurance” for Tehran against an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Ansbacher said.

Ansbacher questioned Islamic Jihad’s claim of responsibility, saying there’s no clear terror hierarchy in Jenin or northern Samaria.

“Nobody really knows who exactly is the leader in the north Samaria area. There are a bunch of terror and crime organizations. The IDF is calling them gunmen, armed groups and of course terrorists from different organizations. It’s kind of a phenomenon there,” he said.

As for Iran’s connection to the ambush, Ansbacher noted, “I’m not really sure we can draw the line between those dots as much as they would like us to think.”

Asked about Israeli deterrence, Ansbacher stressed that, “In the end, it comes down to a matter of will. The IDF could take Jenin, the whole area in a couple of hours, if they want. It’s not a matter of strength or deterrence, it’s a matter of making the [political] decision. The IDF and Israel will have to decide if they want to change the rules of the game, or if they want to play by the rules of the Palestinians, the Iranians and others.”

Said Ansbacher, “We are in war since day one of the Zionist idea in the middle of the Middle East, in the middle of Arab and Islamic area. We were never accepted here, we were never welcomed here. Nothing really changed.”

The consequences, he insists, of waiting too long to change the rules of the game is “more of what we saw yesterday.”


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