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Deceptive Calm

The quiet in Gaza is misleading

The murder of Dvir Sorek Hy”d, a student at the Machanaim hesder yeshivah in Gush Etzion, left Israel in shock. But in the security establishment there was less surprise. Over the last few weeks, Hamas has attempted to carry out several major terror attacks, including a plot to detonate a three-kilogram explosive in the middle of Jerusalem. The terrorist, an Israeli citizen, was arrested hours before he set the bomb.

As soon as the report came in Wednesday night about Dvir’s disappearance, the IDF and Shin Bet set up a joint operations room to manage the search. The importance of beginning the search immediately was learned from the kidnapping of the three yeshivah bochurim five years ago. The core assumption is that when terrorists kidnap a Jew, they won’t leave him alive for long, as they fear being detected. On the other hand, an abduction in which the captive’s fate is left uncertain could lead to a deal in which hundreds or thousands of terrorists are released from prison. Figures in the defense establishment say that thanks to their command of the area and the intelligence they receive — a field in which massive sums are spent to secure cooperation from informants — most long-range plans to carry out a kidnapping are foiled.

As the hours passed, a clear picture began to emerge from intelligence reports of a car reported stolen in Beit Fajjar, just down the road from Migdal Oz, and of a special unit recruited to carry out a kidnapping. The search was concentrated in the area of Kibbutz Migdal Oz, and Dvir was found in the early hours of the morning with several stab wounds. The current assessment is that the terrorist hadn’t carefully planned out the kidnapping, but took advantage of an opportunity. Dvir entered their vehicle voluntarily, and was murdered with a knife elsewhere. When the terrorists noticed the many roadblocks and the intensive security measures, they abandoned the body and succeeded in slipping out of the police cordon that surrounded the area. Security forces captured the four terrorists Sunday, surprising two of them in their beds.

Rabbi Shlomo Wilk, rosh yeshivah of Machanaim, said Dvir had left the yeshivah to buy seforim for his teachers, an end-of-the-year gift. “He was found clutching the books he had bought for his teachers,” Rabbi Wilk said. “We’re talking about a cheerful bochur, a lover of animals and plants, a child of nature and the world. All the bochurim are traumatized. We’ll do everything we can not to allow this to drag us into a world of fear and hatred.”

From the perspective of the defense establishment, this has been a relatively quiet period, especially compared to past summers when Israel was forced to conduct military operations. Hamas is being very cautious, if only because they are concerned that Qatar will stop the influx of cash to Gaza if a conflict erupts. This month, the Qataris are expected to launch long-promised projects to repair Gaza’s infrastructure.

But the quiet in Gaza is misleading. Several dozen Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria have recently been discovered, terrorists who took orders directly from Gaza and were planning to carry out attacks against Israeli targets. Hamas has also recruited Palestinians from East Jerusalem carrying blue Israeli identity cards to commit terror attacks on Israeli soil.

A senior figure in the Shin Bet said this week: “Hamas’s attempts to orchestrate attacks of this kind, despite repeated failures, indicate the strategy chosen by the leaders of the group — to undermine stability in Judea and Samaria at any cost.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 773)

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