by Dr. Reuven Berko
The details released about Tuesday's counterterrorism operation in Hebron indicate that the Shin Bet was able to intercept a murderous terror cell affiliated with Salafia Jihadia -- an Islamic terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaida -- when it was already en route to execute a terror attack in Israel.
This success was undoubtedly preceded by extensive, and impressive, intelligence gathering efforts focusing on the logistic infrastructure at this radical terror cell's disposal.
A new dimension has recently been introduced to the traditional outline of terror organizations based in the Palestinian Authority's territories, and while it seems spontaneous and devoid of any true organization, it is being fueled by the blatant incitement promoted by Palestinian media, the education system and mosques.
Still, the case of the terror cell that was snuffed on Tuesday is different, as its members seem to have subscribed to Takfiri Islam, a radical practice of Islam that views even other Islamist terror groups, whose interpretation of the religion is not as strict, as "kafirs," or "infidels," who must be fought and eradicated.
According to them, the Palestinian Authority is a "heretic entity" that must be annihilated, just like Israel -- if not more so.
Intercepting a terror cell of this kind must have been doubly challenging: these groups are infamous for zealously compartmentalizing information and employing a complex and rigid personal hierarchy, as well as encrypted communication methods.
Infiltrating the personal network and communication infrastructure of this group's leadership is a professional feat for the Shin Bet and one deserving praise.
It seems that Palestinian intelligence services were kept at arm's length of this operation, despite the fact that professional cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security forces is generally regarded as solid. Still, the possibility remains that the two sides partially cooperated to launch the operation, sharing information between the agencies.
Perhaps in the current political and security climate, the Palestinian defense establishment was wary of appearing to have thwarted a terror attack against Israel.
Dr. Reuven Berko
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