On the morning of 23 November, occupied Jerusalem woke up to the sound of a double explosion in the western part of the city. The operation, the first of its kind since 2016, killed two Jewish settlers and injured about 47 others.
Israel’s security establishment immediately imposed strict restrictions on media outlets, preventing any details of the operation from being published, and accused resistance factions Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) of carrying out the brazen attack.
At the same time, the hacker group Moses’ Staff (Assa Musa), believed to be of Iranian origin, published footage of the bombing attack in Jerusalem on its Telegram channel. The hackers claimed to have infiltrated the surveillance cameras belonging to a major Israeli security organization.
The hacker group "Moses Staff" released footage of the moment one of the IEDs was detonated remotely in Jerusalem.
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— The Cradle (@TheCradleMedia) November 23, 2022
Along with the video, there was a Hebrew inscription that said “for a long time we had control over all your activities – step by step, moment by moment.” The video showed the exact moment of the explosion near Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. Moses Staff also claims that it “formatted the hard drive of the camera.”
An upgrade in tactics
According to subsequent Israeli news reports, the perpetrators placed one of the two explosive devices on an electric bike that was parked at a bus station, while the second was placed on a motorcycle. The time difference between the two explosions was a few minutes.
It was later revealed that the two bombs, which contained a large amount of shrapnel and nails, were detonated remotely by a cell phone after the perpetrators left the scene of the operation.
For the Israeli army, this operation is of great concern, not only in terms of the number of deaths and injuries, but also because of the sophistication of tactics adopted by its perpetrators.
The operation would have required discreet reconnaissance, manufacture of small, highly effective bombs, and entry into and exit from the most secure and controlled areas in the occupied territories without any mishaps.
In recognition of these increasingly advanced military tactics, former Israeli police official Aryeh Amnit described the new resistance cells in the West Bank as “a more organized, educated, and professional generation.”
The Israelis also fear that their failure to arrest those responsible, after nearly three weeks of pursuit, will lead to further well-planned and highly-targeted resistance operations.
Revisiting the Second Intifada
Since the early 1990s, following First Intifada tactics that included both suicide bombings and targeted use of explosive devices, these kinds of missions have been the most effective form of armed struggle. The first of these operations was in 1993, carried out by Anwar Aziz of the PIJ.
Bombing operations reached their peak during the Second (or Al-Aqsa) Intifada, between 2001 and 2002, during which 88 missions were carried out, causing the death and injury of hundreds of Israelis.
This led to the Israeli army launching Operation Defensive Wall, which aimed at destroying the infrastructure of the resistance factions, and building an illegal separation wall around the cities of the West Bank – allegedly to prevent the infiltration of Palestinian fighters into the cities of the occupied territories, but also extending the occupation’s annexation of what remained of historic Palestine.
This far-reaching and oppressive Israeli operation initially appeared to yield results: between late 2005 and 2015, only 15 bombings took place, and between 2016 and 2022, the resistance was unable to carry out more than two bombings. It appeared that the Israelis had managed to completely eliminate the organized resistance cells that could carry out this type of sensitive operation.
Unsettling the Settlers
Yet November’s Jerusalem operation raises fresh security concerns for Israel’s occupation agenda in the West Bank, specifically in regard to the sudden advancement of Palestinian methods and tools of warfare.
The Hebrew Wala website claims that Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories have submitted more than 100 police reports about the presence of “suspicious objects” since the Jerusalem bombings. This means, according to Ahmed Al-Madhoun, a researcher on Israeli affairs, that “the operation succeeded in shaking the settlers’ confidence in their army’s ability to provide them with security.”
Madhoun told The Cradle: “With no information about the identity of the perpetrators, the occupation army has launched random arrest operations in East Jerusalem, to cover its impotence in front of a new generation of settlers facing a security threat that it had not seen before.”
According to the Hebrew broadcaster Kan, the perpetrators were residents of areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem, while Israel’s Yamam special force claimed it had managed to arrest one of them. It later became clear that none of these detainees had anything to do with the Jerusalem attack.
A source in East Jerusalem informed The Cradle that the behavior of the Israeli army confirms the validity of the announcement made by the hacker group, Moses’ Staff about compromising Israel’s surveillance equipment.
The source indicated that in normal circumstances, Israel’s military investigators review surveillance camera footage, identify the suspects, and then launch a “hot pursuit” to arrest the perpetrators.
But that didn’t happen this time. After security and forensic officials failed to discover any biological evidence left by the perpetrators – like fingerprints or other physical traces – at the scene of the operation, they resorted to carrying out random arrests of Palestinian civilians.
A new ‘professional’ resistance
Jerusalem-based political analyst Majd Ahmed explains that the behavior of the perpetrators indicates a high level of professionalism.
“After the operation, the occupation authorities imposed a publication ban, and false news was spread about the arrest of one of the attackers, to push the real perpetrators to make a mistake that would expose their identity, such as hiding or trying to travel.”
But those responsible for the attack seem to be living their normal lives. These subtle details confirm that there is superior planning behind resistance ops, and the hypothesis of cooperation between these cells at home and their allies abroad is likely.
This hypothesis is what Israel’s Minister of Internal Security Omer Bar-Lev hinted at immediately after the bombing in Jerusalem, when he said “the attack was complex, suggesting that it was the result of an organized infrastructure.”
Recurring Israeli ‘nightmare’
Hebrew newspaper Israel Hayom warned that the Jerusalem operation opens the door to a wave of bombardments similar to those that took place in 2001 and 2002. It further claimed the existence of “an explosives factory capable of producing explosive belts that can be used in commando operations, as happened in the Al-Aqsa (Second) Intifada.”
Political analyst Ayman al-Rafati believes that the Jerusalem operation – highly professional despite overwhelming Israeli security obstacles – confirms that the West Bank resistance has reached an advanced stage of capacity-building.
“We can expect more such operations in the coming months, especially since the resistance cells succeeded in reading the Israeli security mind, and were able to step ahead of it, and put themselves away from security oversight,” he told The Cradle.
Rafati also contends that the resistance’s ability to access Israel’s geographic depth raises this threat to an all-time high. Operations can now move from the West Bank cities that represent Israel’s backyard, to “Israel’s bedroom”itself, which has become “the biggest nightmare for the Israeli security establishment.”