Palestinian Truce, 'Low-Level' Terror Likely To Continue, Expert Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The temporary truce between Palestinian militant groups and the Palestinian Authority as well as a "new strategy" of maintaining low-level terror attacks against Israelis are both likely to continue, an Israeli expert said on Wednesday.

The six-week-old ceasefire, known as a "hudna" in Arabic, was rattled on Tuesday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in two separate attacks, killing two Israelis and wounding twelve others.

The attacks, one in a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Rosh HaAyin and the other just 11 miles away at a bus stop outside the Israeli West Bank community of Ariel, were the bloodiest attacks since the three-month hudna was declared on June 29.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack at Ariel, saying it was in retaliation for the deaths of two Hamas militants during an Israeli raid on an explosives laboratory last week. Nevertheless, Hamas said it remained committed to the hudna.

Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, part of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, took responsibility for the blast in Rosh HaAyin. The Brigades have rejected both the U.S.-sponsored "road map" as well as the hudna.

PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attacks as well as "recurring Israeli provocations," but he vowed to "work hard to maintain the truce and quiet.

Dr. Ely Karmon of the International Policy Institute on Counter-Terrorism near Tel Aviv said he believes the hudna will continue for at least a few months, but so will the "same level of violence," he said.

"[It's] kind of a new strategy to keep [a] kind of low-level activity, keep the tension," Karmon said in a telephone interview.

There have been stabbings and two young people who have disappeared," Karmon said. In at least one case, police suspect foul play - possibly terrorism.

"It will continue with ups and downs more or less in this framework," he said.

Following the example of Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas is "trying to strike a balance of terror," Karmon said. Prior to Israel's troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon three years ago, Hizballah would hit Israel every time Israel hit Hizballah.

"Hamas is trying to do the same," he said. If Israel will hit their infrastructure, Hamas will strike back but otherwise it will continue to adhere to the hudna," he added.

"The problem is, they are continuing to prepare for the end of the keep a balance [while] preparing at the same time in the event when the ceasefire will collapse. That's what the security forces are worried about," Karmon said.

Israel has warned all along that the terror groups are using the ceasefire as a time to rearm and rebuild their strength. Israeli officials say the PA is not doing anything to stop it.

At a special session of Israel's parliament called on Wednesday following the two suicide bombings, Cabinet Minister Gideon Ezra charged that the Shabak, Israel's secret service, had passed on vital information to the PA police in Nablus about a suspicious car apparently involved in the bombings, but the police didn't do anything, Israel Radio reported.

Teenagers from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus - where the Hamas explosives lab had been located - carried out both suicide attacks.

Israel officials managed to chase down the suspected vehicle after the attacks. They believe it was used to take at least one of the bombers to his final destination.

Ezra compared the incident to that of the PA police in the Gaza Strip, who allowed a truck packed with Kassam rockets to cross through one of their checkpoints.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged that the PA was not taking "seriously" the need to "dismantle the terrorist organizations, disarm them, and uncompromisingly fight terrorism."

Later, Sharon pledged to continue fighting terrorism "wherever the PA does not," and he said Israel would use force in the future as it had in the past.

Nevertheless, no massive military response to the two suicide bombings appeared to be forthcoming.

Israel delayed the planned release of more than 70 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday following the attack.

Early Wednesday morning, the Israeli army demolished the home of the 17-year-old suicide bomber in the Rosh HaAyin attack, Hamis Razi Feisel Jaruan. His family praised their son as a "martyr."

"The demolition of houses of terrorists sends a message to suicide bombers and their partners that anyone who participated in terrorist activity will pay a price for their actions," the army said in a statement.

The mother of the second bomber, Islam Yousef Kteyshat, also 17 years old, reacted uncharacteristically to the news of her son's deed. Yusra was quoted as crying out for revenge and vowing to kill whoever had dispatched her son.