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Israel faces growing Hamas-led terrorism in West Bank amid war in Gaza

Palestinians attend the funeral of three Palestinians killed during a raid by Israeli security forces, in the West Bank city of Jenin, November 17, 2023. (Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The State of Israel is facing an increase in Hamas-led terrorism in the West Bank amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

Even before the Hamas massacre of more than 1,200 Israelis on Oct, 7, which launched the war, Israeli security officials had been warning that the West Bank was reaching a 'boiling point' of terror activity and tensions.

Dr. Ronni Shaked, Middle East and Islam Research Unit coordinator at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace in Jerusalem, spoke to The Media Line about the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank.

“The West Bank is in flames,” Shaked assessed. “Every time Israeli forces enter, they encounter explosive devices and live fire,” he added.

The security situation in the West Bank is complicated by the fact that the territory is home to about 3 million residents and some half a million Israeli Jews. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is formally in charge of most local Arab-populated areas.

However, in practice, the PA is deeply unpopular due to corruption and its influence is waning in the West Bank. This is particularly true in flashpoint cities like Jenin and Nablus, where there has been an increase in organized armed resistance.

In contrast, there is growing support for the terror organization Hamas in the West Bank, whose purpose is to wipe Israel off the map and weaken its political revival, the PA, led by the aging Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2023, Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank murdered some 30 Israelis, according to statistics released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. During the same time, more than 500 Palestinians in the West Bank were killed. While the majority have been armed terrorists, some were civilians killed by extremist Jewish settlers.

In early January, top Hamas terrorist commander Saleh al-Arouri was eliminated in the Lebanese capital Beirut during an operation attributed to Israel. Arourin, who hailed from the West Bank, was reportedly the main architect behind the growing West Bank terrorism against Israelis. In addition, he is believed to have played a leading role in planning and executing the Oct. 7 invasion and murder of Israeli civilians.

The Israeli government has vowed to eliminate Hamas as a military and political force. However, Shaked argues that it is going to be very difficult to uproot Hamas from the wider society within Gaza and the West Bank.

“Hamas is not a Gazan movement; it is a Palestinian movement which is an inseparable part of the Palestinian political map,” Shaked stated. “Terminating Hamas is an illusion, a stupidity of the Israeli leadership. Israel can topple buildings and arrest leaders, but Hamas will remain in the hearts of Palestinians,” he added.

Israel unilaterally withdrew its forces and residents from the Gaza Strip in 2006. Current polls show that most Israelis have no desire to return to the coastal enclave after the war ends.

However, in the West Bank, the political situation is more complicated because both Jews and Arabs dispute over the territory they live in. While much of the international community opposes a Jewish presence in the West Bank, known historically as Judea and Samaria, the area represents the biblical heartland of the Jewish people.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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