CTC-ICT Focus on Israel: What Can We Learn from the Spring 2022 Terror Wave in Israel?

AuthorGanor, Boaz

In recent years, the month of Ramadan has been characterized by an escalation in political violence and terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. (a) Given that this important Muslim holiday has been coupled with the deliberate and targeted incitement by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and global jihadis as well as extremist religious preachers calling for violence and terrorist attacks, it is hardly surprising that every year during Ramadan, there is a rise in terrorist attacks in Israel. This year, Ramadan took place during April, a particularly significant period of festivals for the Jewish public as well, including Passover, one of the three pilgrimage festivals when devout Jews are commanded to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; the national holidays and memorial days marking Holocaust Remembrance Day; Israel's Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers; Jerusalem Day; and Independence Day, the date of the founding of the State of Israel (marked by Palestinians as "al-Nakba"--the Day of Catastrophe). Both sides' religious and national holidays are exploited by extremists to inflame tensions and carry out extreme acts in an effort to lead others to follow them and further ignite the fire.

This article first outlines the spate of attacks that took place in Israel in the spring of 2022. It then assesses the driving factors behind the recent wave of attacks and compares it to previous waves of terrorism in Israel. The final section focuses on the often sensationalist and unfiltered coverage of the attacks by Israeli media. Terrorism is designed to terrify, and the way these attacks were reported increased their psychological impact on the Israeli population.

The Spring 2022 Terror Wave in Israel

The wave of terrorism that befell Israel between March and May 2022 came after a quiet period during which the Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, namely Hamas and PIJ, maintained relative quiet. After Operation Guardian of the Walls, an 11-day assault in May 2021 that saw nearly 4,400 rockets launched toward Israel, Hamas and PIJ leadership put a stop to common tactics utilized by their members such as intermittently firing rockets from Gaza and launching incendiary balloons to set fire to agricultural fields in southern Israel. (1) This calm came about against the backdrop of the new Israeli government's policy of allowing the resumption of payments from Qatar to Gaza residents, (2) as well as Egypt's restraining influence on the arena.

This is not to say that Hamas and PIJ ceased their subversive activities in the West Bank, however. Rather, they have continued their attempts to establish sleeper terrorist cells in the area, challenge the leadership of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmood Abbas, and, above all, incite and call for Palestinians in the territories to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis. Indeed, the governance failure in the West Bank has worsened over the past year, creating areas (for example, in Jenin) that quickly became lawless and extraterritorial, from which Palestinian security forces have fled and where some young Palestinians have responded to the terrorist organizations' incitement by carrying out attacks in Israel. This was seen in a series of 'lone actor' or local network attacks in Israel and the West Bank that started in late March, on the eve of Ramadan, and continued into April and May. However, this series of terrorist attacks recently carried out in Israel had a stronger nexus to global jihadism than prior waves of violence.

By early May 2022, Israel had suffered six attacks and had thwarted over a dozen attacks in the spring wave of violence. (3) The first of these attacks took place on March 22 in the southern city of Be'er Sheva, and was carried out by an Arab citizen of Israel, Mohammed Abu al-Kiyan, a resident of the Bedouin village of Hura. (4) Abu al-Kiyan ran over a cyclist with his vehicle, killing him, and then embarked on a stabbing spree of passers-by that resulted in the murder of three more civilians and the wounding of two others before Abu al-Kiyan was shot dead by an Israeli civilian. The attack stood out not only because it was carried out by an Israeli citizen (a very uncommon phenomenon among Israeli Arabs, who constitute about 17 percent of the country's citizens (5) and who, with a small number of exceptions, traditionally avoid involvement in terrorist attacks), but also because its perpetrator was inspired by the Islamic State. (6) The terrorist had served a sentence in Israeli prison between 2016 and 2020 for his support of the Islamic State after he was caught trying to cross the border into Syria to join the organization. (7) In this context, too, the attack was unusual because Arab Israeli society is largely opposed to the Islamic State's global salafi jihadi ideology. When there has been support for terrorism from a small number of individuals in the community, it has been for Palestinian organizations and has stemmed from familial, cultural, and/or nationalist ties rather than from global salafi jihadi ideology. In this sense, the attack in Be'er Sheva is more similar to those carried out by second- and third-generation immigrants in Europe inspired by the Islamic State who executed attacks individually or as a part of local networks in various countries. Like Abu al-Kiyan, some did so after serving prison sentences for various (usually criminal) offenses and underwent accelerated radicalization processes while in prison. (8)

A few days later, on March 27, 2022, another terrorist attack was carried out in the Israeli city of Hadera. (9) Two cousins from the Agbaria family in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm planned and executed a complex attack in the heart of Israel. The two perpetrators, also Israeli citizens inspired by the Islamic State rather than Palestinian organizations, entered the center of the city armed with pistols, shot and killed two Border Police officers at a bus stop, snatched their automatic weapons (M16s), and embarked on a shooting spree that injured five Israeli citizens using magazines and M16 ammunition they had obtained ahead of the attack. (10) The terrorists quickly encountered two officers from...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT