State Dept. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016

State Dept. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, July 2017

(Please see also, Trump State Dept Unsure Why Palestinian Terrorists Kill Israelis. — DM

Please excuse the formatting. The State Department Report is in PDF and therefore very difficult to format correctly for this site.– DM)


Overview: Israel was a committed counterterrorism partner in 2016. Israel again faced terrorist
threats from Iranian-support groups such as Hizballah in Lebanon. Other threats included
Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian
Islamic Jihad (PIJ), particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank; al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its
affiliates, and ISIS and its affiliates along its borders, such as ISIL-Sinai Province (ISIL-SP) and
the Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed group (JKW, formerly the al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) in the
Syrian Golan Heights. In addition, since 2015, Israel has faced numerous incidents of terrorist
attacks committed by individuals with no clear affiliation to terrorist organizations, termed “lone
offender” attacks.

Israeli security officials and politicians remained concerned about the terrorist threat posed to
Israel from Hizballah and Iran, highlighting that Iran, primarily through the efforts of its Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, continued to fund and supply Hizballah. Israeli experts
believed that Iran has transferred to Hizballah advanced weapons systems such as anti-aircraft
and anti-ship cruise missile systems, and was continuing to transfer long-range rockets into
Lebanon. Also, Israeli officials were concerned about the proliferation of conventional and
non-conventional weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. According to the Government
of Israel, Hizballah has stockpiled more than 130,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon since the
2006 Lebanon War.

Israeli counterterrorism officials said Hamas and other Gaza terrorists made quantitative and
qualitative advances in their military capabilities. Israel assessed that Hamas and PIJ have
regained most of the military capabilities that were severely damaged during operation
“Protective Edge” (July 7 to August 26, 2014), and have, in some cases, expanded their
capabilities, including by constructing new offensive tunnels and acquiring other advanced
capabilities such as an arsenal of medium-to-long range rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli
territory, although no Israeli fatalities were reported.

While Israel was not involved in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, it shared information to
help track and stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters through information exchanges on
counterterrorism issues with numerous governments. In support of the UN Security Council
(UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, Israel regularly updated its list of foreign
terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism to better align with UNSC sanctions

In 2016, Israel and the United States held numerous interagency counterterrorism dialogues to
discuss the broad range of threats in the region and to determine areas of collaboration to address
these challenges.

2016 Terrorist Incidents: Israel experienced numerous terrorist attacks in 2016 involving
weapons ranging from rockets and mortars to small arms and knives. The wave of violence that
began in late 2015, termed the “knife intifada,” gradually decreased during the year; nonetheless,
numerous Israelis and Palestinians were injured in these attacks. The following list details only a
fraction of the total terrorist incidents that occurred during the year.

• In January, an Israeli Arab gunman opened fire on several businesses in downtown
Tel Aviv, killing two people and wounding seven others. He subsequently killed a taxi
driver while fleeing the scene of the attack. Israeli officials identified the attacker as
31-year-old Nasha’at Melhem from the northern Israeli town of Ar’ara. Following a
week-long nationwide manhunt, Melhem was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli
security forces.

• In March, a Palestinian man went on a stabbing spree in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, killing a
U.S. citizen and wounding 10 other people. The attack lasted approximately
20 minutes and ended after police shot and killed the assailant. Israeli authorities
identified the assailant as 22-year-old Bashar Masalha, from the West Bank village of

• In June, two Palestinian men opened fire on a popular market in downtown Tel Aviv,
killing four people and wounding seven others. Responding police arrested both
assailants, later identified as Muhammad and Khalid Mukhamra, cousins from the
West Bank town of Yatta. An Israel Security Agency (ISA) investigation determined
that ISIS online propaganda provided inspiration for the attack and friends of the
assailants assisted them with preparations.

• In November, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units responded to machine gun and mortar
fire from JKW militants (an ISIS-aligned group) across the Syrian border. Israeli
forces crossed the Israeli security fence, while remaining within Israeli territory, and
called in an airstrike which killed four militants.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Israel has a robust legal framework to
counter terrorism and promote international legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution
of terrorists.

The Israeli Knesset passed new counterterrorism legislation in 2016 that broadened the range of
activities subject to enhanced criminal sentencing. These activities include tunnel-digging, stone
throwing, incitement, and planning intended to assist terrorist organizations and individuals. The
Combatting Terrorism Law was designed to empower law enforcement authorities to preempt
the establishment of terrorist cells and attack planning. The new provisions contained in the law
codified numerous military and emergency orders issued under general emergency powers in
place since the founding of the State of Israel. They include: the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of
1948, the Anti-Terrorist finance Law of 2005, and various regulations issued under pre-statehood
emergency defense authorities of 1945.

Non-governmental human rights organizations protested the Law’s broad definition of terrorism,
arguing it serves to codify counterterrorism powers that critics compared to martial law.
Additional concerns regarding the scope of Israeli counterterrorism legislation were directed
towards the criminalization of activities related to freedom of expression, association, and
peaceful assembly that could affect the Arab population of Israel.

The ISA and Israel National Police (INP) continued to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement
agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks. Elite Israeli units engaged in
counterterrorism operations included Yamam (Israeli Border Police) and IDF special operations
units, such as Sayaret Matkal and Duvdevan (Urban Warfare Counterterrorism Operations).
Israeli Border police have a “hot return” policy for visitors suspected of ties to terrorist or
criminal organizations. The border fence constructed along the border with Egypt, and fences
along the West Bank and Gaza, assisted Israeli security forces in preventing migrant inflows and
mitigating security threats. The West Bank and Gaza barriers were augmented by cameras,
sensors, and active patrols by Israeli Border Police and the IDF.

Israel’s airport security was considered robust by international security experts, particularly with
regard to its security screening and inspections program. The Israeli Ministry of Interior
maintained a voluntary biometric passport control system at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International
Airport, which was available for Israeli passport holders over the age of 18 years. This system
facilitated both entry into and exit from Israel via an automatic kiosk for Israeli citizens who
successfully passed a background check and provided a scan of their hand.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Israeli financial intelligence unit, the Israeli
Money Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority (IMPA), is a member of the
Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Israel was also welcomed as an observer to the
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at the organization’s plenary meeting in February 2016, and
Israeli anti-money laundering (AML) experts have begun to participate in FATF peer reviews of
other countries’ anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism regimes.
Israel’s counterterrorist finance regime continued to be enhanced through enforcement
operations and the inclusion of new groups under national terrorist finance laws. The
well-regulated Israeli banking industry worked to address suspected terrorist activity. Israeli
experts and officials continued to raise concerns about the issue of state-sponsored funding of
Hamas, and said that Hamas funded terrorists in the West Bank preparing to perpetrate terrorist
attacks against Israel, Israelis, or Israeli interests.

Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities,
as did the funding of Hizballah through charities and illicit activity. In one high-profile case in
August, Israeli police charged Mohammad al-Halabi – the Director of the NGO World Vision in
Gaza – with diverting material and financial assistance to Hamas; the charity itself was not
implicated in the case.

Israel regularly updates the list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in
terrorism, to implement the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Israel also has
a domestic sanctions regime in place with the Anti-Terrorist finance Law of 2005, which allows
the Israeli Security Cabinet to declare a foreign organization to be classified as a foreign terrorist
organization in coordination with findings presented by a foreign country or by the UNSC.
The new counterterrorism law that entered into force on November 1 significantly reduced the
time it takes to adopt international designations. The UN sanctions lists were registered in the
formal government registry. Every domestic and UN designation was published in three
languages (Hebrew, Arabic, English), and run in three different newspapers, as required by law.
In addition, designations were published on the website of the IMPA and distributed by email to
the IMPA’s mailing list, which included banks, lawyers, and finance professionals.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Israel supported several organizations
that used educational and interreligious projects to build bridges between citizens of different
religions and beliefs. These interfaith initiatives benefitted a wide range of age groups and were
conducted in numerous fora, including from elementary schools to universities.
Israel’s national program, “City without Violence,” supported municipalities and local
authorities conducting programs to counter violence, crime, and violent extremism.
Israeli politicians and the public were increasingly concerned about online incitement’s role in
exacerbating the recent wave of violent attacks by so-called lone offender terrorists. The Israeli
government blamed social media companies and online platforms for not doing enough to
prevent the proliferation of online content inciting terrorism. The Israeli government also
considered legislation to obligate companies, such as Google and Facebook, to do more to
prevent incitement. Israel’s new counterterrorism law established a new criminal offense for
demonstrating solidarity with a terrorist organization or with an act of terrorism, and incitement
to terrorism, including via the internet and social media; the new criminal offense replaced and
consolidated two existing penal code offenses for incitement to terrorism.

International and Regional Cooperation: Israel continued its counterterrorism cooperation
with a range of regional and international institutions, including the United Nations, the
Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Israel cooperated with numerous countries to thwart terrorist attacks and plots against Israelis or
Israeli interests abroad.

The West Bank and Gaza, and Jerusalem

Overview: The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West
Bank where Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
remained present. The PA Security Forces (PASF) constrained the ability of those organizations
to conduct attacks, including through arrests in February and April of Hamas members in the
West Bank who were planning attacks against Israelis. The PA exercised varying degrees of
authority over the West Bank due to the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) continuing presence in
certain areas, per Oslo-era agreements. The Israeli Security Forces (ISF) also arrested members
of suspected terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Extremist Palestinians continued to conduct acts of violence and terrorism in the West Bank and
Jerusalem. The heightened period of violence that began in October 2015 abated significantly in
April 2016. However, sporadic lone offender stabbing, shooting, and vehicular attacks against
Israelis continued. A majority of perpetrators did not have any known organizational affiliation.
Attacks in 2016 resulted in the deaths of five Israeli citizens, including two dual U.S.-Israeli
nationals, and three ISF officers.

Extremist Israelis, including settlers, continued to conduct acts of violence as well as “price tag”
attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in
retaliation for activity they deemed anti-settlement) in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In March,
Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian home south of Bethlehem and spray-painted “Death to
Arabs” on the walls. The UN reported 101 incidents of settler violence in 2016, compared to
221 in 2015. Israeli NGO Yesh Din reported 19 incidents of settler violence during the
October – November Olive Harvest, compared to 15 in 2015. There were no reports of fatalities.

Hamas continued to maintain security control of Gaza. There is evidence that Hamas continued
to prepare for future conflict with Israel. Several Gaza-based terrorist and militant groups
continued to launch rockets against Israel from Gaza. Gaza remained a base of operations for
several Salafist splinter groups, such as Jaysh Al Islam, and clan-based terrorist groups that
engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks. Hamas confronted Salafists in Gaza by arresting and
detaining a number of them this year, but at the same time Hamas likely maintained ties to
Salafists in the Sinai. Despite claims of responsibility from individuals or groups in Gaza
purporting affiliation with ISIS, there is no definitive link confirming membership on a large
scale in Gaza.

2016 Terrorist Incidents:

• In February, three Palestinian assailants shot and killed an Israeli National Police (INP)
officer and injured a second in Jerusalem’s Old City. INP shot and killed the attackers.
• In April, a Palestinian member of Hamas detonated a bomb on a bus in Jerusalem,
injuring approximately 21 people. The assailant died of injuries from the explosion.
• In March and July, suspected Israeli settlers conducted two arson attacks against
Palestinian homes in the West Bank village of Douma, damaging homes of the relatives
of the Dawabsheh family, whose house in Douma was set on fire by settlers in July 2015
and resulted in the deaths of three Palestinians.
• In June, a Palestinian assailant stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli-American dual
national in her home in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. A private security
guard fatally shot the attacker.
• In October, a Palestinian member of Hamas shot and killed an Israeli civilian and INP
officer, and injured 12 others, while carrying out a drive-by shooting in Jerusalem. INP
shot and killed the attacker.

The United States continued to assist the PA’s counterterrorism efforts by providing training and
equipment to the PASF in the West Bank. The United States also assisted the PA criminal
justice system to conduct more thorough investigations and prosecutions of terrorist-related
activity, among other criminal acts, and to ensure safe incarceration of those held for trial or after
conviction for such crimes.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the
State of Israel, and pursuit of an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means. President
Abbas supported a security program involving disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting
members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank.
In July, President Abbas instructed the PASF to intensify measures in the West Bank to ensure
the safety and security of people; security services subsequently increased efforts to disrupt
criminal activity, including the proliferation of illegal weapons.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The PA continued to lack legislation
specifically tailored to counterterrorism, although existing Palestinian laws criminalize actions
that constitute terrorist acts. The PASF were active throughout the year in seizing illegal
weapons and closing down weapons manufacturing facilities in the West Bank.

The PA arrested terrorists, including Hamas elements suspected of terrorism, in the West Bank,
and the PASF and public prosecutors received training to enable better investigations of
terrorism-related crimes. The PA continued to develop its civilian justice institutions
(e.g. judiciary, police, prosecutors) to improve both investigative and prosecutorial functions.
The United States provided assistance to enable the PA to reduce case backlogs, improve warrant
executions, and upgrade forensic services.

The Preventive Security Organization (PSO) is the key PA institution by mandate and law that
works to prevent internal terrorist events and investigates security-related criminal conduct. In
practice, the General Intelligence Organization and the Military Intelligence Organization also
play a critical role in this effort. The PSO conducted investigations in coordination with public
prosecutors, but this cooperation could improve, especially the PSO’s ability to conduct criminal
investigations and gather admissible evidence. The United States assisted the PSO and the
Security Forces Justice Commission to help the PA move the prosecution of all civilian cases,
including those involving terrorism and security-related offenses, to the exclusive jurisdiction of
the civilian courts, and enhance cooperation between security service investigators and public

Per the Oslo-era Accords, Israel controlled border security in the West Bank.

The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas’ control of the
area and the resulting inability of PASF to operate there. Limitations on PA counterterrorism
efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PASF in and
through areas of the West Bank for which the Government of Israel retained responsibility for
security under the terms of Oslo-era agreements. Moreover, ISF incursions into

Palestinian-controlled Area A at times disrupted ongoing PASF counterterrorism operations.
The PA advanced its forensic capabilities with the official opening of the Palestinian Civilian
Police forensic laboratory in November. The laboratory is capable of conducting basic
analyses/examinations in firearm and tool mark evidence, document examination, and drug and
chemical analysis. The PA already has a basic ability to examine and compare unknown prints
to known prints.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: In 2015, the PA became a full member of the Middle
East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style
regional body. President Abbas issued Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist financing Decree
No. 20 in December 2015, which criminalizes terrorist financing and defined terrorists, terrorist
acts, terrorist organizations, foreign terrorist fighters, and terrorist financing. It also makes
terrorism and terrorist acts predicate money laundering offenses, although the decree does not
fully meet international standards as it does not criminalize all forms of material support or the
financing of an individual terrorist in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act. Because the
legislature has not convened since 2007, the PA remained unable to make legislative
improvements (without decree) required to bring the current law up to international standards.
The Palestinian Financial Follow-Up Unit (FFU) is a fully functional financial intelligence unit
with 19 employees and a computer system linking it with 15 banks licensed to operate in the
West Bank. Seven banks are local and eight are foreign, operating through a network of
302 branches in the West Bank and Gaza. There are 311 money changers. The banks file
suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and currency transaction reports electronically through this
system. In 2016, banks filed 113 STRs, compared to 108 in 2015. Although the FFU has
adequate staffing, authority, and equipment, restrictions in the law hinder its operational
effectiveness. The 2007 Anti-Money Laundering Law No. 7 restricts information sharing
between the FFU and any law enforcement agency, with the exception of the Attorney General’s
Office. While the FFU may pass information to any requesting authority according to the 2015
Decree, the Attorney General’s Office is the primary recipient of the FFU’s information.
Moreover, the PA has no effective control outside of Area A. The absence of PA law
enforcement and regulatory power in Areas B and C increased vulnerability.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial

Countering Violent Extremism: The PA continued to counter violent extremism in the
West Bank through security operations to prevent attacks, the PASF’s outreach to Palestinian
communities to alert them to signs of youth at risk of extremism, and monitoring social media
for indicators of extremism and intent to carry out violent acts. During an interview broadcast in
March, President Abbas said he sent the PASF to schools to look for knives and to caution
Palestinian youth against undertaking attacks against Israelis. The PASF thwarted hundreds of
lone offender attacks, according to public statements by PA and Israeli government officials.
Continued drivers of violence included a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli
settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank,
the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram
Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.
The PA has taken significant steps during President Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that
official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that
incites violence. While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments,
the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to
violence. Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and
categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership
does not generally tolerate it. In April, President Abbas condemned an attack on a Jerusalem bus
and said he was against all forms of terrorist activity that affect Israelis and Palestinians. In
November, he said, “Incitement can lead to violence, and we must end it in every place.” During
a speech to the Seventh Fatah General Congress in November, Abbas expressed his commitment
to fight terrorism and to cooperate with regional and international parties in this endeavor, while
reaffirming a “culture of peace and tolerance and the renunciation of violence and extremism.”
According to the PA’s Palestinian Broadcasting Company’s code of conduct, it does not allow
programming that encourages “violence against any person or institution on the basis of race,
religion, political beliefs, or sex.” In practice, however, some instances of incitement took place
via official media. There were also some instances of inflammatory rhetoric and the posting of
political cartoons glorifying violence on official Fatah Facebook pages.

The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in approximately
1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence. Weekly,
the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes and prohibits
incitement to violence. The PA’s ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon the
location of the Mosques and it had limited authority to control the content of sermons in
Israeli-controlled Area C. A senior PA religious official met in October with prominent Israeli
rabbis to discuss ways to increase religious tolerance in the region.

As part of a policy codified in 2003, the PA provided financial packages to Palestinian security
prisoners released from Israeli prisons in an effort to reintegrate them into society and prevent
recruitment by hostile political factions.

International and Regional Cooperation: PA justice and security leaders continued to
participate in regional conferences and meetings to counter terrorism. PASF personnel attended
a variety of international training courses related to counterterrorism at training facilities in
Jordan, Europe, and the United States.

Explore posts in the same categories: State Department, State Department and Israel, State Dept. and Palestinians

Tags: , ,

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Comment on “State Dept. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016”

  1. IMHO, this is most troubling…

    “Hamas and PIJ have regained most of the military capabilities that were severely damaged during operation “Protective Edge” (July 7 to August 26, 2014), and have, in some cases, expanded their
    capabilities, including by constructing new offensive tunnels and acquiring other advanced capabilities”

    And then, there is this nugget…

    “According to the Government of Israel, Hizballah has stockpiled more than 130,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon since the
    2006 Lebanon War.”

    Seems the document is full of interesting and chilling info.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s