A major military operation is necessary to stop Iran-backed terror groups.
According to senior security officials in Israel, Iran is encouraging terrorism in Judea and Samaria and urging Hamas and Islamic Jihad to expand their operations from northern Samaria to the southern and central regions, while taking advantage of the weakened Palestinian Authority security capabilities.
This Iranian support is one of the main reasons for yesterday’s shooting attack in the Mount Hebron area at an Israeli vehicle, in which Batsheva Nigri, a 42-year-old mother of three, was murdered and the driver Aryeh Leib was seriously injured.
Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the site of the attack, along with Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, where he told reporters: “We are in the midst of a terrorist attack that is deliberately encouraged and financed by Iran and its proxies.” Gallant also referred to Iran’s part in the terrorism and added: “The attack was carried out at the direction of Iran, which is looking for any way to harm the citizens of Israel. The most significant change on the ground,” said Gallant “is related to Iranian funding.”
On Monday night, the IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police forces arrested two Palestinian residents of Hebron who confessed to carrying out the deadly attack. At the same time, Israeli security forces continue the hunt for the terrorist who murdered Silas-Shi Negerker and his son Aviad Nir on Saturday in the village of Huwara in the Shekhem (Nablus) region.
Security officials estimate that the terrorist organizations will increase their efforts to carry out attacks in preparation for the holidays next month (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot).
A new security situation in Judea and Samaria
For the first time since the second Intifada (2000-2005), Israel is facing a new security environment in Judea and Samaria, where Iran is the major force behind the attacks. Through their proxies, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, Iran is leading an intense war of attrition against Israel, which is spreading from Northern Samaria to the rest of Israel with a focus on the Hebron region, the site of the recent attack.
Iran and its proxies hope that the current wave of terror will evolve into a third Intifada, encompassing all of Judea and Samaria. This is Israel’s new security challenge.
Even the Palestinian Authority, which is attempting to gain more control over Northern Samaria, confirms that it’s facing great difficulty attempting to stave off Iran’s involvement in the region.
Iran’s main mission is to overthrow the Abbas regime and turn Judea and Samaria into a new front against Israel. Therefore, Iran has significantly increased funding and arms smuggling to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to put a stranglehold on Israel, according to the strategy of General Qassem Soleimani.
In recent months, Hamas has established a terror infrastructure in the Jenin area that manufactures and launches rockets at Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. Since the end of the IDF operation “Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021, the Islamic Jihad has established dozens of new terrorist infrastructures called “battalions” in Judea and Samaria.
Iran is investing tremendous amounts of resources in their war against Israel. According to the data of Israel’s security establishment, every year Iran transfers billions of shekels to terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and Hamas. In the past year alone, Iran transferred about $700 million to Hezbollah and around $100 million to Hamas. Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad Ziad Al-Nakhalla, claimed on April 21 that Iran transfers $150 million a year to Hamas.
Iran’s regional strategy is changing
Iran is increasing its fight against Israel while simultaneously changing its regional strategy vis-à-vis the Gulf States, albeit temporarily, to a more moderate position. It recently signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia in order to renew diplomatic relations and is currently in talks with the Biden administration on a prisoner exchange deal and an interim nuclear agreement.
Israel, however, remains the main target of Iran’s struggle, as it continues to develop a strategy of uniting multiple fronts against Israel, with the intention of dividing Israel’s strength and weakening it. Iran attempts to create a regional defense umbrella for local terrorist groups in Judea and Samaria and intends to launch a multi-arena campaign that will stretch from the Gaza Strip, Southern Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen if the IDF acts against them. This is how it is gradually establishing the next campaign to liberate all of “Palestine.”
What needs to be done about the terror in Judea and Samaria
The danger to Israel posed from within Judea and Samaria is significant. The armed terror groups that arose there distract the IDF, carry out attacks against IDF soldiers and civilians alike, and send terrorists to carry out attacks in major cities throughout Israel.
The Israeli security establishment already understands that the IDF will need to act much more widely against these groups. The brief operation that the IDF carried out in the Jenin “refugee camp” against the armed terrorist groups was not enough and the terrorists have already rebuilt the infrastructure which the IDF destroyed.
What is urgently required is an extensive military operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet against the terrorist infrastructures in Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm, especially in the refugee camps in the areas where the terrorists are hiding.
Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East expert and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. You can read more of his articles on his website.