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December 25, 2020 6:59 am

Curb This Terror Wave in Israel Before It Swells

avatar by Yoav Limor / JNS.org

Opinion

Esther Horgen, the Israeli mother of six killed in a suspected terror attack near her Tal Menashe home. Photo: Courtesy of the family.

JNS.org2020, which was a good year in terms of the war on terror, is winding down with a bright, flashing warning: The murder of Esther Horgen and the terrorist attack in Jerusalem on Monday could indicate an impending terrorist wave.

Horgen’s murderer has been arrested, and it doesn’t seem to have been a planned attack, certainly not organized by a terrorist cell; rather, it was more likely a spur-of-the-moment act of opportunity. There is also a history of criminal attacks that initially appear to be terrorism. History is full of many such events, the last of which was the horrific murder of Ori Ansbacher nearly two years ago near Jerusalem.

Those who commit these atrocities have a clear interest in having them labeled terrorist attacks rather than murders, and being labeled terrorists rather than murderers. Either way, they will receive life sentences, but attaining terrorist status has dramatic implications: On the Palestinian street, they will be perceived as heroes, receive fanfare and funding from the Palestinian Authority, and also receive a bevy of other charity associations.

Horgen was the third person killed in terrorist attacks in 2020. This is a drop compared to the last two years — nine killed in 2019 (seven civilians and two members of the security forces) and 16 people killed in 2018 (nine civilians and seven members of the security forces). The drop is partly attributed to successful preventative measures implemented by the IDF and Shin Bet, but also to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Palestinian Authority has been largely locked down since March. Many people have been stuck at home, unnerved, while certainly avoiding contact with others. In Palestinian villages, Tanzim patrols ensure that lockdown measures are being meticulously observed and that Palestinians are not crossing into Israeli areas unchecked.

Under these circumstances, any unnecessary movement is considered suspicious, and terrorists have struggled to operate. The IDF and Shin Bet have exploited this, and — after a short period of freezing counter-terrorist activities when the pandemic first erupted (save for imperative operations in extraordinary cases) — have used the situation to hit terrorist networks hard.

This has contributed to the low figures, but it has changed nothing in terms of motivation. Both organized terrorists — specifically guided by Hamas in Gaza — and localized cells, continue to plot attacks. As always, “lone-wolf” terrorists who act independently are also a constant concern. The murder of Horgen, it appears, was perpetrated by one of these lone-wolf terrorists, unlike the shooting attack in Jerusalem’s Old City later on Monday.

Israel’s security forces now must focus on two objectives. First, the terrorists behind these attacks must be apprehended. Second, the security forces must nip in the bud any potential wave of copycat terrorism inspired by these attacks. The main challenge right now is to curb this wave before it swells.

Yoav Limor is a contributor to Israel Hayom, where this article first appeared.

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