Israel Must 'Be Prepared' for More Attacks Amid Violence: IDF Official

After nearly a month of deadly violence that has gripped Israel, the country's military is warning of more potential attacks to come as tensions continue to mount in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"We're very much hoping that there won't be, of course, any kind of attacks," an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official said Monday in response to Newsweek's question regarding the recent unrest. "And sadly, as we've seen, we know that now we need to be prepared because we've seen attacks and we've seen in our operations, in our counterterrorism actions that we're thwarting a lot of different cells."

The IDF official said that, as a result of these operations, "we're finding a lot of different arms and explosives," meaning some of the attacks being planned "are imminent and ready to be carried out and some have a longer span."

As such, the IDF official warned that the present period of strife could "be very long and throughout the month of Ramadan, and maybe also afterward, and that is why we're continuously assessing how to best act to foil this activity."

Palestinian, gunmen, funeral, Muhammed, Zakarneh, Jenin
Above, Palestinian gunmen take part in the funeral of Muhammad Zakarneh, 17, who died of injuries sustained a day earlier during a raid by Israeli soldiers, in Jenin in the West Bank on April 11, 2022. JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images

Four attacks across four Israeli cities have killed up to 14 people since March 22. The first two were conducted by sympathizers of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) among Israel's Arab minority, and the latter two by Palestinians hailing from the West Bank, a territory recognized internationally as Palestinian but still partially occupied by Israeli forces, who enter at will and provide security for a growing number of Jewish settlements deemed illegal under international law.

Palestinians have reported a recent rise in violent actions carried out by these settlers in the leadup to the ongoing wave of attacks, and more than 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since January. Many were found to be armed, but others, including a 47-year-old woman, shot dead Sunday after rushing toward Israeli troops at a checkpoint in the town of Husan, had no weapons on them, fueling further frictions.

Amid speculation of a concerted campaign targeting Israel, the IDF official said that, despite statements and gestures of support for the attacks displayed by militant groups, "we do not see a direct connection between the different attacks in the last few weeks."

"That means that there isn't one guiding hand to these attacks," the IDF official said. "So there was some where ISIS and others [appeared to be a factor], but there is not someone that is guiding these and that's important to understand because that means that these are a different kind of activity that is happening."

Last year, Ramadan coincided with a sharp uptick in Israeli-Palestinian tensions over a housing dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Israel-occupied East Jerusalem. The incident served as a precursor to a two week-conflict erupting as Palestinian factions led by militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad began to fire thousands of rockets against Israel from the Gaza Strip, and the IDF launched attacks from land, air and sea.

Rockets were also fired against Israel by groups or individuals based in neighboring Lebanon and Syria, which have remained formally at war with Israel since its 1948 founding, followed by the mass displacement of Palestinians and the first of three Arab-Israeli wars. The conflict last May ended with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979, but episodes of violence have continued.

As the security situation in Israel deteriorated once again this year, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry last Sunday condemned "the Israeli escalation in the Palestinian territories in recent days," especially visits by Jews to the sacred site, known to them as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa Compound.

That same day, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett turned to the second Arab state to normalize relations with Israel—Jordan. The Israeli premier spoke via telephone with King Abdullah II in a bid to emphasize calm and stability days after the Jordanian monarch made his first visit to the West Bank since 2017.

Israel's relationship with the Arab world has transformed over the past two years, with a series of deals known as the Abraham Accords seeing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco establish relations with Israel in late 2020 and early 2021. The initiative was overseen by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, and has been welcomed by his successor, President Joe Biden.

Palestinian leaders, including those affiliated both with the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, have opposed the endeavor, arguing that there must first be a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian territorial dispute in which Arab powers have traditionally called for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

After Bennett stated Sunday that "there are no restrictions on the IDF, ISA [Israel Security Authority] and other security forces in the war against terrorism" during a cabinet meeting, the Palestinian National Authority Foreign Ministry accused the Israeli leader of issuing a "license to kill" Palestinians.

"The ministry holds the Israeli government headed by the extremist Naftali Bennett fully and directly responsible for these hostile attitudes to the Palestinian people and the resulting violations and crimes that rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity," the Ramallah-based ministry said.

The ministry also called on Israel's ally, the United States, "to pay attention to the inflammatory statements that pour fuel on the fire" and demanded an investigation into Israel's recent killing of Palestinians.

Hamas also mourned the Palestinian dead in a statement affirming "that escalating the Zionist terrorism against...defenceless Palestinian civilians will not stop the resistance heroic operations throughout occupied Palestine."

"Our free Palestinian people, with all its components, will confront these continuous Zionist crimes by escalating the comprehensive resistance," the statement said, "which is the only means capable of deterring the occupation and defending the Palestinian land and national constants."

Israel, security, forces, Nablus, raid, Palestinians
Above, Israeli security officers deploy during a raid to look for wanted Palestinians in Nablus city in the West Bank on April 11, 2022. AFP/Getty Images

The hostilities have also caught the attention of Iran, Israel's top foe and a close supporter of a number of regional militant groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, head of the Intifada and Quds Central Headquarters of the Islamic Propaganda Coordination Council, said at a meeting held Sunday in Tehran that "what has terrified the Zionist regime extremely is its weakened security and the intensification of the confrontation and activities of the popular groups and young educated Palestinians in the West Bank with the usurper Israeli regime, which have challenged and damaged the regime's security."

"Security is the most important issue for the Zionist regime to preserve the Jewish population in the occupied lands and territories," Sharif added, "and the loss of security and population actually means the loss of its identity and collapse of this regime."

Israel and Iran have been locked for years in a shadowy conflict across the Middle East, with Israel regularly conducting airstrikes against suspected Iran-linked targets in Syria. Syrian state-run media outlets reported Sunday that Israel conducted a rare daytime air raid from Lebanese airspace on the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf, which is known to have an Iranian presence.

The IDF official who spoke Monday with reporters drew no direct link between Iran and the string of deadly attacks in Israel but stated that the "Palestinian Islamic Jihad is definitely backed by Iran in a lot of its funds, and they are building on that, their capabilities both in Gaza and Judea and Samaria," using the Israeli term for the West Bank.

The IDF official said that "we're definitely seeing a rise in their aggressiveness", especially in the West Bank city of Jenin, where Israeli forces have conducted raids only to engage in clashes with Palestinian gunmen, including members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The group's leader, Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala, said Sunday during an interview with the Lebanese Hezbollah-linked Al Manar outlet that a larger battle with Israel could erupt "at any moment" as a result of its policies toward Palestinians and Islamic holy sites.

"The heroic operations that are taking place in the occupied territories are not only a reaction to the crimes of the occupation," Nakhala said, "but it is the duty of every Palestinian and a natural practice against the Zionist occupation."