Today the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth reported that the number of attempted abductions of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank has risen since January. The release of this data, which was tabulated by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), comes just a few days after a top Hamas official in Gaza called on Palestinian terror groups to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
On April 8, during a conference outside the home of Ahmed Jabari, the former head of Hamas’ Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades (who was killed at the start of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012), Ahmed Bahar called on “the Palestinian resistance, mainly [the] al-Qassam Brigades, to kidnap [Israeli] soldiers and reach a new prisoner swap deal with the occupation [Israel].”
According to today’s report, since January the Shin Bet has tallied 33 thwarted kidnapping attempts in the West Bank. By contrast, in all of 2012, there were 24 thwarted attempts in the West Bank. According to the Shin Bet’s 2012 annual report, one-third of the approximately 100 “significant attacks” it thwarted from Gaza, the West Bank, and within Israel in 2012 were kidnapping attempts.
A number of the thwarted plots were reportedly foiled only at the last moment.
Senior officials in the Israel Defense Forces told Yediot Ahronoth that Hamas operatives been encouraged by the Gilad Shalit exchange in 2011 and are increasing their efforts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails. According to one IDF officer, while Israeli authorities “have been able to thwart the kidnapping attempts … the scope is extraordinary, and it is clear we will not be able to foil these attempts forever.”
The IDF has recently taken a number of steps, such as dissuading soldiers from hitchhiking, in order to decrease the chances of a successful abduction.
In recent months, Israeli authorities have exposed a number of Hamas terror cells in the West Bank. On March 13, the Shin Bet revealed that Hamas’ Interior Minister Fathi Hammad has been at the forefront of the terror group’s efforts to carry out terror attacks in the West Bank, including kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks.
Less than two weeks earlier, authorities announced the arrest of members of a Hamas cell in Hebron that “intended to carry out various terror attacks — but were arrested before executing their plans.” On Feb. 6, Israeli authorities reported the thwarting of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad kidnapping plot.
In late January, Israeli authorities announced the arrest of approximately 20 Hamas terrorists who were trying “to establish a local headquarters in Hebron” and were “planning to kidnap an IDF soldier.”
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