The Palestinian weapons build-up,
and foiled attacks on Israel – March 2007 update

Published: 18 March 2007
Briefing Number 191

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Summary: Here are some key facts about the build-up of weaponry by the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank , and the latest attacks on Israeli civilians which have been foiled. None of this information features in the international media, who concentrate on Israel 's responses to this build-up.

Massive build-up of missiles, rockets and other weapons: Since Israel's disengagement from Gaza, large amounts of anti-tank missiles, ground-to-ground missiles, and surface-to-air missiles have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip, together with a total to date 31 tons of dynamite, several million rounds of rifle ammunition, 10,000 assault rifles, and many rocket-propelled grenades (reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee by Yuval Diskin, head of Israeli security services, on 13 March 2007 , and in June 2006. We refer to this below as the ‘Diskin report') ( Jerusalem Post, various).

279 potential suicide bombers during 2006: During 2006, Israel arrested 279 Palestinians whom it describes as “potential suicide bombers”. This was an increase of approximately 80% over the 154 bombers arrested during 2005 (Israel Security Agency 2006 report, hereafter ‘ISA Report').

50 terror-attack cells active: According to the Diskin report, 50 different cells are currently planning attacks on Israel . He added that the different cells – from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs, Fatah Tanzim and splinter jihadi groups - are “competing” to try to reach Israel and carry out attacks.

Hamas training gunmen and bombers in Iran : Hamas is sending hundreds of gunmen for training in Iran . The training lasts for several months, and includes special weapons and bomb-making training (Diskin Report, 13 March 2007 ).

400% increase in rocket attacks against civilians in Israel in 2006: In 2005 there were 501 Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel . In 2006, according to the ISA Report, there were 1726, an increase of more than 400%. The targets are random, civilian targets. Diskin, in his report to the Knesset, added that Palestinian rocket squads are aiming to reach Israeli targets in the 13-20 kilometre range, such as Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat.

Hizbollah influence increasing inside Gaza : According to the ISA Report, Hizbollah now guides 80 cells inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, mostly Fatah Tanzim, and Islamic Jihad cells. It is “instilling its methods of operation” from the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

Continuing threat from Islamic Jihad: The Islamic Jihad continues to plan and carry out terrorist attacks into Israel , from its main stronghold in the Northern West Bank . According to the ISA Report, 96 potential suicide bombers were seized during 2006. However, some Islamic Jihad attackers got through – eg the suicide bombing attack on the southern Israeli town of Eilat in January 2007.

Global Jihadist groups are developing in the Palestinian areas: The ISA Report claims that jihadi groups are expanding their influence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank . Jihadi groups in the Egyptian Sinai area (who have carried out mass civilian attacks in Egypt ) are accelerating this trend.

Increased Palestinian efforts at hostage-taking: The ISA Report states that in 2006 there was an increase in the number of attempted seizures of Israeli hostages. Soldier Gilad Shalit was seized; student Eliyahu Asheri was seized and murdered, both in June 2006. Western journalists, UN officials and aid workers have also been seized.

Some recent foiled Palestinian attacks

In recent weeks, several attempted attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians have been foiled, or failed:

•  Tel-Aviv suicide bombing foiled: On 22 February 2007 a Palestinian suicide bomber left his village north of Jenin, in the direction of Tel-Aviv, and infiltrated into Israel using illegal Palestinian labourers as cover. He was carrying a bomb, but he did not carry out his mission, and was arrested South of Tel-Aviv. According to media reports, investigators have established that his target was Tel-Aviv's central bus station. The bomber was from Islamic Jihad (reported in Ha'aretz, 21 February 2007 ).

•  Two Palestinian cells arrested in Jerusalem , recruited by Bethlehem clergyman: It was reported that on 4 February 2007 Israeli security forces had arrested two Palestinian cells operating in Jerusalem , one linked to Hamas and the second linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The groups were reportedly involved in manufacture of pipe bombs, and opening fire on Israeli vehicles. The Hamas group were recruited by a 40 year old clergyman from a Bethlehem mosque (Ha'aretz, 8 February 2007 ).

•  Two firebombs hurled at Israeli passenger bus: Two petrol bombs were thrown at an Israeli passenger bus travelling near Bethlehem on 25 February 2007 (reported in the Jerusalem Post).

Conclusions and key messages

Israel faces a daunting build-up of weapons capability by the Palestinians, and unswerving determination among the factions to carry out attacks.

This comes at a time when the Palestinian political leadership refuses to renounce terrorism (what it calls ‘resistance'), and refuses to recognise Israel .

Israel has no choice but to judge the Palestinians by their deeds, not by their words.

Israel 's policy is “land-for-peace”, and its government repeatedly states that it wishes to negotiate a viable, two-state solution.

To judge by the activities reported above, the Palestinian policy is “land-for-war”. As Hamas said in a statement on 12 March 2007 :

“We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine , all of Palestine ….” (Reuters, 21 March 2007 ).

Related Beyond Images Briefings

Over 30 Beyond Images briefings provide information about the topics covered above. See The All Briefings area of Beyond Images

Among these are the following:-

Qassam rocket attacks since Israel 's pullout from Gaza (Briefing 176)

Foiled Palestinian suicide attacks: A June 2005 snapshot (Briefing 144)