Israeli security sources plan to step up arrests of jihadists to prevent West Bank unrest from morphing into a third intifada. AFP reported Thursday that the decision follows an upsurge in violence ranging from stone-throwing to Molotov cocktail attacks on West Bank roads.
In the past 48 hours, there have been numerous press reports like this describing Palestinian attacks on Israeli troops in the West Bank. An elite Israeli Army unit was attacked by a 500-person mob in Jenin on Thursday when it tried to apprehend suspected terrorists. Palestinians shot video showing at least four youths hanging onto an Israel Defense Force (IDF) jeep, with one perched on its roof.
Two days earlier, an IDF undercover unit entered Tamoun, a village south of Jenin, in search of two Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives. As IDF troops left the village with one terror suspect, they were attacked by rioters who pelted them with stones and bottles. The army had to scramble a large force to the scene to quell the violence.
The riots follow reports that Hamas is becoming bolder in challenging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah organization controls the West Bank.
London's Sunday Times reported last month that Hamas boss Khaled Meshaal has instructed the group's West Bank "sleeper cells" to prepare for armed struggle to seize control of that Palestinian territory. Citing intelligence services including the Shin Bet, the Times claimed that Iran was working to create a third jihadist proxy force in the West Bank (after Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza).
A poll released last month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 48 percent support in the West Bank and Gaza for Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, compared to 45 percent for Abbas.
Last week, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook proposed that Abbas dismantle the Palestinian Authority and turn the West Bank over to Hamas. Marzook said that Hamas' success in waging war against Israel qualified it to run the West Bank.
PA spokesman Ahmed Assaf responded by suggesting that Hamas was going soft on Israel: "How can Hamas agree to a state without Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees? Does Hamas want to cover up for Israeli occupation and the Judaization of Jerusalem and Islamic holy sites?"
Assaf accused Hamas of conducting secret talks with Israel about the establishment of a temporary Palestinian state.