By the end of 2015, there was nearly a hundred attacks and attempted attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency has said.
That period witnessed stabbings, car rammings and limited shootings carried out by Palestinians.
Before the violence abated, more or less, a year later, about 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians had been killed in what was called “the knife intifada.”
Arik Barbing, who headed the Shin Bet’s Cyber Directorate before the events began, says that the human profile of the perpetrators differs significantly.
Their average age was 16 to 20. The participation of women, mostly young and from difficult family backgrounds, also increased substantially. Besides not being connected to terror groups, most of the perpetrators didn’t espouse extremist ideology, and some pursued a fairly secular way of life.
Even when they operated in cells, these were small. They obtained guns by themselves. And they didn’t abide by any organizational hierarchy. In many cases, they carried out “inspiration attacks” – they tried to emulate previous attacks by other young people that were highly publicized.
So the Shin Bet had to revise its traditional patterns of operation “and adopt working methods and intelligence gathering relating to individuals.”
Barbing stresses the role of technology, especially social media, in disseminating the messages of revolt, and by the same token the Israeli preventive and preemptive actions. In some cases, he notes, assailants hinted at their intentions on Facebook and elsewhere; in some cases they also posted a “last will.”
After putting many suspects under surveillance, dozens were arrested. During their questioning, many admitted to plotting attacks or thinking seriously about such moves.