Palestinian lone attackers trump factions: analysts


Recent deadly attacks by Palestinians have shown a shift in the dynamics of militancy in the West Bank, as armed factions play less of a role and individual grievances trump ideology, analysts say.At a bustling market in the Palestinian political headquarters of Ramallah, customers clamour to get their hands on the latest hot trend.

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This season, it is T-shirts printed with an M16 rifle.

Clothing store manager Ahmed Abu Hamza said he has sold 12,000 of the shirts in the past week.

“The demand is terrifying,” he told AFP.

“It’s the recent conditions in Palestine, especially Jenin,” a militant hotbed in the northern West Bank that has seen a wave of arrests by the Israeli army, the 40-year-old said.

It was with an M16 rifle that gunman Dhia Hamarshah rampaged through the Tel Aviv ultra-Orthodox suburb of Bnei Brak late last month, killing five people.

That was one of four attacks by Palestinians and Arab-Israelis since late March that have left 14 people dead.

Over the same period, a total of 23 Palestinians have been killed across the West Bank.

But while armed factions — from the Islamist Hamas movement to the secular Fatah party of president Mahmud Abbas — have long dominated Palestinian militancy, analyst Jihad Harb said the dynamics are changing.

“Today there is a new post-factional generation, and they are the ones who are taking the initiative,” he told AFP.

“The factions are no longer a revolutionary model, and operations today are motivated by revenge — revenge for a father, brother or a friend, or revenge for any Palestinian who was killed.”

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Harb and others also pointed to social and economic grievances as motivating factors.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad carried out a string of bombings throughout the 1990s, and all three groups claimed responsibility for attacks during the second intifada, or uprising, between 2000 and 2005.

But in the recent attacks in Bnei Brak and elsewhere in greater Tel Aviv, observers say there is little evidence of the factions’ involvement.

Michael Milshtein, a former head of Palestinian affairs at Israeli military intelligence, said Palestinian militants were operating “with no organisational framework and no deep ideology”.

Young Palestinians “are tired of the slow dance, of the ideologies and the high politics,” Milshtein told AFP.

“They really want to express themselves, they want to promote individual efforts, they find a way to do this by committing those attacks.”

A senior Palestinian security official, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that the recent attacks were “individual operations”.

But, he said, Palestinian parties and factions “are trying to exploit these operations for their benefit”.