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Cablegate: Israel: 2009 Country Report On Terrorism

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #2812/01 3581103
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 241103Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4753
INFO RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002812

SIPDIS

S/CT (RHONDA SHORE)
NCTC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER ASEC IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL: 2009 COUNTRY REPORT ON TERRORISM

REF: STATE 109980

1. The following is Post's submission for the 2009 Country
Report on Terrorism for Israel. Embassy Tel Aviv's point of
contact for this report is: Jason Grubb, Political-Military
Officer, Tel: 972-3-519-7460; e-mail: GrubbJB@State.gov.

2. Begin Text:

Israel

Four Israeli citizens were killed in three separate terrorist
attacks during the year, down from 13 attacks in 2008 which
resulted in 27 Israelis killed. Three Israeli non-combatants
were killed in late December 2008 as a result of rocket
attacks launched during the December 2008 - January 2009
conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist
organizations in the Gaza Strip. Rocket and mortar fire
emanating from the Gaza Strip was the Palestinian terrorist
organizations' preferred form of attack. However, Israeli
government officials believe Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza
Strip helped achieve a level of deterrence, as rocket and
mortar attacks from Gaza dropped precipitously following the
conflict. Israeli government officials welcomed this
deterrence, but noted that Palestinian terrorist
organizations have used this relatively quiet period to rearm
and reorganize in preparation for any future conflict. There
were no incidents of Palestinian suicide bombing.

In addition to Operation Cast Lead, Israel responded to the
terrorist threat as it has in recent years, with targeted
operations directed at terrorist leaders, terror
infrastructure, and active terror activities such as rocket
launching groups. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the
Israel Security Service continued to conduct roundups and
other military operations in the West Bank designed to
increase pressure on Palestinian terrorist organizations and
their supporters. Construction on an extensive security
barrier in the West Bank and Jerusalem continued in some
areas. Israeli officials believe the security barrier has
played an important role in making terrorist attacks more
difficult to undertake. In some areas in the West Bank, such
as Jenin and around Nablus, Israeli authorities eased curfews
and reduced incursions to mitigate effects on the local
population while maintaining a strong counterterrorism
presence. Overall, Israeli security services significantly
relaxed movement and access measures in
the West Bank.

Given the temporary drop in rocket/mortar fire and the
absence of suicide bombing attacks, Israel security forces
focused on a new trend in terrorist attacks dubbed "the lone
terrorist." In this instance, terrorist attacks are carried
out by individuals typically lacking criminal records that
have not previously contacted or received support from
terrorist organizations. These individuals are harder to
identify and deter prior to committing their attacks.

Terrorist attacks that resulted in injuries and the Israeli
responses included:

-- On March 5, a Palestinian driving a bulldozer rammed into
a police car and a bus in Jerusalem, injuring two Israeli
police officers. Israeli police and a taxi driver shot and
killed the assailant.

-- On March 15, two police officers were killed in a shooting
attack near Massua in the northern Jordan Valley. No
suspects have been identified in the attack; the "Imad
Mughniyeh Group" claimed responsibility.

-- On April 2, an axe-wielding Palestinian killed a 13-year
old Israeli and seriously wounded a seven-year old Israeli in
the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. The assailant was
later arrested; Islamic Jihad and the Martyrs of Imad
Mughniyeh both claimed responsibility for the attack.

-- On April 17, members of the Beit Hagai settlement
emergency squad shot and killed a knife-wielding Palestinian
that infiltrated the community.

-- On May 9, a 56-year old taxi driver was kidnapped and
strangled to death by three Palestinians near Gan Yavne. The
arrested assailants claimed they committed the murder as
vengeance for the death of an Islamic Jihad operative killed
by the IDF in 2007.

Throughout the year, Israel's security services were able to
keep terrorist planners and operators off balance, reporting
multiple foiled attempts:

-- On March 21, a 40-kilogram explosive device concealed in
the trunk of a car parked in a lot outside a shopping mall in
Haifa was activated but failed to detonate. Israel police
defused the bomb; the previously unknown Galilee Free
Brigades claimed responsibility.

-- On June 16, 10 terrorists from Gaza staged a failed
assault at the Karni crossing. At least four terrorists and
several horses loaded with explosives were killed in the
ensuing firefight with the IDF. Video footage released by
the Junud Ansar Allah ("Soldiers Loyal to Allah") cell
following the attack detailed preparations for the attack.

-- On November 26, IDF reservists ordered an individual
approaching the Israeli border from Egypt near Eilat to stop.
The individual fled the scene after dropping his bag
containing a 15 kilogram explosive device.

-- On December 9, Israel border guards arrested a Palestinian
attempting to carry six pipe bombs through the Qalandiya
checkpoint leading into Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Gaza Strip and Operation Cast Lead
----------------------------------

Palestinian terrorist organizations were relatively
unsuccessful in carrying out suicide bombings and other
attacks within Israel during the past year. However, these
organizations launched effective mortar and rocket attacks
from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory for the past eight
years. Israel security services assessed that the use of
rockets and mortars reflected recognition by the groups
launching them that their best chance for success lies
through asymmetrical warfare, especially in light of the
stringent physical security measures that limit the movement
of potential suicide bombers into Green Line Israel.
According to the MFA, Palestinian terrorists launched
approximately 12,000 rockets and mortars from Gaza into
Israel between 2000 and 2008, including 3,000 rockets and
mortars in 2008 alone.

The reliance on rockets reflected technological advancements
allowing groups to manufacture rockets cheaply, stockpile
them, and launch them greater distances. In addition, Iran
increased the provision of longer ranged rockets, which were
disassembled and smuggled through tunnels into Gaza. In
November, Israeli security officials reported that Hamas
successfully test-fired a 60-kilometer range rocket, or able
to reach the greater Tel Aviv area from northern Gaza. On
December 16, Israeli officials reported that a Russian-made
S5K rocket impacted in the vicinity of Sderot - the first
time such a weapons system was fired from Gaza. As the
rockets' ranges continue to increase, Israeli authorities in
cities and communities surrounding Gaza have initiated
emergency response training in anticipation of eventual
rocket attacks.

The IDF initiated Operation Cast Lead on December 27, 2008,
in response to the collapse of a six-month ceasefire and
subsequent intensification of rocket and mortar attacks from
Gaza. The IAF launched airstrikes on Hamas security
installations, personnel, and other facilities, as well as
rocket and mortar launch teams, with the aim of stopping the
rocket attacks and ceasing arms smuggling into Gaza. On
January 3, Israeli forces launched a ground invasion.
Hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas operatives
continued through January 18, and the Israeli withdrawal of
troops was completed on January 21.

Three Israeli non-combatants died as a result of rocket and
mortar fire during Cast Lead; according to the MFA and human
rights organizations, 571 rockets and 205 mortars were fired
into Israeli territory during the operation. In addition,
the MFA reported 4 severely injured, 11 moderately wounded,
and 167 lightly wounded Israelis - but did not differentiate
between combatant and non-combatants. The MFA noted that 584
Israelis were treated for shock as a result of rocket/mortar
fire during Cast Lead.

The number of Palestinian casualties during Operation Cast
Lead was a subject of controversy. For example, Israeli
human rights NGO B'Tselem reported the death of 1,021
non-combatants out of 1,387 total Palestinian casualties.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported 1,181
non-combatants out of 1,417 total Palestinian casualties.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health, Gaza, estimated 1,440
total Palestinian casualties. The IDF reported the total
number of Palestinian casualties at 1,166, with 709 combatant
fatalities. The IDF explained the combatant casualty

discrepancy based on the belief that Hamas operatives removed
their uniforms during the conflict, thereby making it
difficult to identify combatants from non-combatants. The
IDF also reported that it carefully verified the identities
of most of the Palestinian combatants killed in the
operation. International NGOs claimed that Israel forbade
access to Gaza following the conflict, thus making any
casualty count difficult. Finally, questions arose regarding
the definition of "combatant," including whether Hamas
policemen should be defined as such.

Subsequent to the large-scale hostilities, the UN Fact
Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, authorized April 3 by
the Human Rights Council (HRC), investigated possible
violations of International Human Rights Law and
International Humanitarian Law that might have been committed
in the context of the Gaza military operations whether
before, during, or after by Israel; the Palestinian
Authority; Hamas; and armed Palestinian groups. On September
29, the mission's leader Judge Richard Goldstone presented to
the HRC the final report of the mission, with which Israel
refused to cooperate, arguing that the HRC's mandate was
biased. The report, which was criticized for methodological
failings, legal errors, falsehoods, and an anti-Israel bias,
reflected the mission's belief that war crimes and possible
crimes against humanity had been committed by Israelis and
Palestinians. On October 16, the HRC endorsed the report and
on November 4, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution
urging Israel and Palestinians (both Hamas and Palestinian
Authority) to investigate the allegations. Israeli officials
condemned the report, noting that it serves to encourage
terrorist organizations and "rewards acts of terror."

Since the end of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF estimated
approximately 250 rockets, mortars shells, and Grad missiles
have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip - an almost 90
percent decline in such attacks from 2008. Following such
attacks, the IAF launched airstrikes targeting approximately
150 facilities, tunnels, and launch teams in Gaza. The IDF
also estimated slightly less than 100 attacks by Palestinian
terrorist organizations against the Gaza security fence; most
of these incidents involved small arms shootings or attempts
to place explosive devices along the fence. Israel
government and security officials described this relative
period of calm as misleading as Hamas rearmed and reorganized
in preparation for the next round of conflict.

Northern Border and Hizballah
-----------------------------

Israel's security establishment remained concerned about the
terrorist threat posed to Israel in the north by Hizballah
and its Iranian and Syrian backers. Israeli security
officials argued that Iran - primarily through the efforts of
the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - has
established a sophisticated arms smuggling network from Iran
through Syria into Iran's proxy Hizballah in Lebanon.
Israeli security officials said Hizballah continued to
provide support to select Palestinian groups to augment their
capacity to conduct attacks against Israel.

Israeli politicians and security officials pointed to
Hizballah's efforts to rebuild and re-arm following the 2006
Second Lebanon War as evidence that Hizballah remained a
threat to Israel; these officials estimate that Hizballah
currently possesses an arsenal of over 40,000 short- and
medium-range rockets. Prime Minister Netanyahu said on
several occasions that Israel will hold Lebanon accountable
for any attack by Hizballah on Israel, and stated on December
12 that Israel views Hizballah as "the real Lebanese army."

Israeli officials continued to claim that Hizballah has moved
arms south of the Litani River, and pointed to several
incidents in support of this assertion:

-- On July 14, between 1,000 and 1,550 kilograms of
explosives detonated in the Shiite village of Khirbit Salim.
Hizballah blocked UNIFIL access to the scene, preventing
further inspection.

-- On September 11, terrorists associated with the Global
Jihad claimed responsibility for firing two Katyusha rockets
from southern Lebanon into northern Israel near Nahariya.

-- On October 12, a large explosion took place in the house
of a senior Hizballah member near the village of Tayr Filsay.
Israel security officials claimed Hizballah used the house
as an arms depot and provided unmanned aerial vehicle footage
showing Hizballah operatives removing arms from the house.
-- On October 27, a Katyusha rocket was fired into northern
Israel near Kirya Shmona. IDF forces responded by firing
artillery shells at the source of the rocket attack.

With the exception of these rocket attacks and arms cache
explosions, Israel's northern border remained relatively
quiet during the course of the year. The IDF continued a
strong exercise schedule and military presence in the Golan
Heights. In April, Israeli media outlets reported widely
that Egyptian security services foiled a Hizballah cell's
plot to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli tourists
in Sinai.

Countersmuggling
----------------

The smuggling of commodities, arms, explosives, and funds in
support of terrorist groups such as Hamas through tunnels
along the Philadelphi Corridor between the Gaza Strip and
Egypt, and Hizballah along smuggling routes in Lebanon,
continued to prove problematic. Israeli authorities stated
that the continued smuggling of sophisticated, medium-range
rocket systems able to strike Tel Aviv into Gaza increases
the likelihood that Israel will conduct another operation
similar to Operation Cast Lead. Israeli officials asserted
that Egypt took steps to prevent arms smuggling from the
Sinai into Gaza, but can do much more in terms of arresting,
prosecuting and incarcerating smugglers, destroying tunnel
infrastructure, and providing socio-economic alternatives for
Bedouin involved in smuggling activities.

The IAF carried out regular airstrikes against smuggling
tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor. In March, Israel
news media reported on an alleged Israeli airstrike against
an arms smuggling convoy in Sudan destined for Gaza. On
November 4, the Israel Naval Forces seized the M/V Francop,
the largest arms shipment ever seized by Israeli authorities.
According to Israeli officials, the M/V Francop left
Bandar-Abbas, Iran, bound for Latakia, Syria, carrying
approximately 500 tons of arms - including mortar shells,
Katyusha rockets, and 122-mm rockets - allegedly destined for
Hizballah.

Jewish Terrorism
----------------

A high-profile case raised awareness regarding settler
violence and acts of terrorism. Israeli security services
arrested American-born settler Yaacov "Jack" Teitel on
October 7 in connection with a number of crimes and terrorist
attacks over the past 12 years. Teitel was arrested for
posting anti-homosexual flyers, and later confessed to a
number of crimes, including the murder of two Palestinians in
1997. He also claimed responsibility for several attempted
bombings, including against Israel police assets, sending a
parcel bomb to a Messianic Jewish family in Ariel in which a
15-year old Israeli-American boy was injured, and placing a
pipe-bomb that injured Israel Prize laureate and peace
activist Prof. Zeev Sternhall in September 2008.

While Israeli officials praised the Israeli security
services' arrest and investigation of Teitel, Israeli media
outlets questioned whether the security services are
sufficiently motivated or resourced to conduct investigations
on Jewish terrorists. Israel security services believed
Teitel acted alone, and not as part of a larger settler
terrorist organization. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
November 25 decision to temporarily freeze settlement
construction in the West Bank has the potential to incite
further incidents of settler violence and terrorism. On
December 11, a mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf was
set afire, apparently in response to the moratorium.
Settlers repeatedly clashed with IDF and border security
forces following Netanyahu's decision. Israeli media outlets
reported on a leaked IDF plan to put down settler violence
and enforce the settlement freeze, further contributing to
the combustible mixture.

Terror Finance
--------------

Hamas and Hizballah continued to finance their terrorist
activities against Israel primarily through state sponsors of
terrorism Iran and Syria, and fundraising networks in Europe,
the Middle East, the United States, and to a lesser extent,
elsewhere. Israel has adopted strong measures to prevent the
financing of terrorism through its financial sector. Among
other objectives, its policy of restricting economic activity
with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has sought to reduce
inflows of funds to support terrorist activity there.
Regulation and enforcement of Israel's domestic financial
industry is equivalent in scope and effect to other highly
industrialized and developed nations. In 2009, several
changes strengthened Israel's anti-money laundering and
combating of terrorism financing (AML/CT) legislation, and
significantly increased the number of reported seizures
related to financial crime by the Israeli National Police
(INP).

Law Enforcement Front
---------------------

On the law enforcement front, the Israel Security Agency
(Shin Bet) and INP continued to cooperate with U.S. law
enforcement agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed
in terrorist attacks. On December 7, the Israeli Parliament
(Knesset) passed a controversial biometrics bill. The law
will not officially go into effect until the Ministry of
Interior signs implementation regulations. Once the law goes
into effect, Israeli citizens can volunteer to participate in
the program for a two-year trial period. Israel will
reassess the law following the trial period to determine if
the law will be extended. The law seeks to create a
biometric database containing fingerprints and facial scans;
corresponding biometric chips will be installed in Israeli
identification cards and passports.

Speculation continued regarding the potential release of
hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli
soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas
since June 25, 2006. Israeli society remains divided
regarding the prisoner exchange. The majority believe the
state has a moral obligation to do everything in its power to
obtain the release of Shalit. However, a strong minority
argues Israel should not capitulate to terrorist
organizations' demands and questions the price of the
exchQge -- especially if Palestinian terrorists with "blood
on their hands" are released as a result.

Israel security services spent more time, attention, and
resources focused on cyber terrorism. IDF leadership
stressed the importance of creating a "cyber command" to
combat cyber threats. Israel security officials highlighted
new trends in terrorist activity on the Internet beyond
collecting information posted by Israelis. These included
direct and concrete appeals and proposals to Israeli
citizens, especially those active in social networks, to
become involved in terrorist activity or pass along
classified information in exchange for payment. Concerns
over such activity included divulging classified information,
as well as luring Israel citizens abroad with the promise of
payment so that terrorist organizations can abduct them.
Israel security officials called on Israeli citizens to be
alert to suspicious internet or telephone appeals by
unfamiliar persons.

End text.
CUNNINGHAM

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