In the year since 1027 terrorists were swapped for Gilad Shalit, the IDF has worked hard to contain them. 15 terrorists have been re-arrested, with only the threat of kidnapping rising
One year ago, when Gilad Shalit’s five-year captivity finally came to a close, there were several concerns regarding the 1027 Palestinian prisoners, many with Israeli blood on their hands, who were released in the exchange. There was a growing worry that with many of the prisoners returning to Judea, Samaria and Gaza, there would be an increase in terrorist activity. Now, a year later, while some prisoners have returned to terrorist activity, the IDF and ISA (Israeli Security Agency) have largely been able to track and contain those released.
“There was no outbreak of terrorism in Judea and Samaria, and so far only 15 activists have been rearrested,” said a senior source within the Judea and Samaria Division. “The hundreds of prisoners that returned to Judea and Samaria have not created a shift in the region. Even though anyone who was released returned as a national hero, for now things have remained under control while we maintain a very good level of intelligence,” added the source.
Those who returned to terrorism mainly joined the two major organizations in the area: Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad- although some have joined more grassroots terrorist organizations. Last year, Hamas saw a significant increase in enlistment, but the Division emphasized that “Hamas’ activities have become more concentrated on social projects and education as a part of the Training Hearts outreach program, which aims to promote the movement’s radicalism through recruiting university students and implanting a jihadist ideology.”
“There is a desire to influence young people towards terrorism, yet what we are actually witnessing are Palestinians being more involved in their personal lives. There may eventually be an eruption of activity, but for the moment we are seeing no special influence,” explained a source within the Division.
As mentioned above, prisoners released to Judea and Samaria are under surveillance and restrictions preventing them from returning to terrorism. As a part of the restrictions, the released prisoners are prohibited from entering Israel or going abroad for the next decade. In addition, they are required to report to the District Coordination Office of the Civil Administration at least once a month.
“Gaza is different, and there we see the direct influence of Hamas on the released prisoners,” said a source within the IDF. In a recent interview, Col. Nuchi Mendel, out going commander of the Jordan Valley Division, said that the Tubas Region (Eastern Samaria between Nablus and Jenin) was strongly influenced by those released in the Shalit deal. Some of those released who were deported to Gaza have pumped money into the region, leading to a rehabilitation of Hamas infrastructure. “The rest of Central Command has also recognized the phenomenon that prisoners who have been released to Gaza and abroad have been orchestrating terror in Judea and Samaria from afar,” concluded Col. Mendel.
The Shalit deal resulted in the largest number of terrorists being released for a single soldier in history. This fact has been a catalyst for Hamas’ rise in popularity in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. For the first time in years, Hamas flags flew through the streets of Judea and Samaria as prisoners were welcomed home. “Economic issues and the issues surrounding the prisoner trade have brought more Palestinians to the streets,” said a source within the Division.
The massive amount of prisoners released through the trade has elevated kidnapping to the number one means of securing the release of prisoners. This past year, a number of terrorist cells were caught planning or even attempting to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians on the street. Dozens of kidnapping attempts have been foiled across the country, while in the background terrorist leaders and wealthy individuals in the Arab world have actually encouraged kidnapping.
“Kidnapping is a very real and authentic threat, there are clear intentions,” said a source within the Division. The IDF has undertaken an extensive campaign to raise awareness of the threat of kidnapping amongst both soldiers and civilians. Informational packets were distributed to all soldiers with details about the threat and ways to avoid it. Recently, the kit was also distributed to residents within Judea and Samaria.