Most of the lone-wolf Palestinian terrorists who have carried out attacks over the last six months have done so for personal reasons stemming from economic or personal hardships, a senior Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) official told the cabinet on Sunday.

Over the last two months, and especially the past two weeks, there has been a substantial decline in what he called “significant attacks,” he said.

Defining “significant attacks” as stabbings, shootings and car-rammings, the official said the number has dropped from 78 such attacks in October, when the current wave of terrorism began, to 20 in March, and three in the first third of April.

palestinian hebron
Palestinian woman found with knife and arrested near Hebron, November 21, 2015 . (photo credit:POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Since October 1, some 270 “significant attacks” have been carried out, resulting in the killing of 33 people, including 29 Israelis and four foreign residents. Another 250 people have been wounded.

The official added that 290 “significant attacks” have been prevented since the beginning of 2015, and especially over the last six months, by Israel’s security services,” including 25 attempted kidnappings and 15 suicide attacks.

Nevertheless, he said there remains a great deal of tension on the ground, with Palestinian terrorist groups and others trying to continue to destabilize the situation.

The official attributed the reduction in the number of attacks to steps Israel has taken to thwart them in advance; by preventing Hamas from carrying out attacks such as suicide bombings or kidnappings; and through taking “determined” action to prevent Palestinian incitement.

All these steps were taken, according to the official, while trying to retain, as much as possible, the normal fabric of daily life for the Palestinian population not involved in terrorism, and preserving the security cooperation with the Palestinian security services.

All of this together has resulted in a common feeling among the Palestinian population and prospective lonewolf attackers that escalation is useless, he claimed.

At the start of the cabinet meeting and before the Shin Bet’s briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a key element in reducing the number of attacks has been to limit the number of “successful” assaults.

“The main element leading to the spread of terrorism, elsewhere and in Israel, is the degree to which we reduce the success rate,” Netanyahu said. “We are reducing [the numbers of] those who want to join those successes. That is the main thing that we are doing, and we will continue, while also taking aggressive action against Palestinian incitement.”

Netanyahu attributed the wane in the wave of terrorism to an “aggressive, responsible and systematic policy that the government has led,” saying it contained both offensive and defensive elements, and “brought about a situation where the terrorist elements are succeeding less.”

The prime minister stressed that he was referring to the decrease in the number of attacks with “caution, since this trend can change.”

Later in the day, at a memorial ceremony for Israel’s late presidents and prime ministers, Netanyahu said that, in 2002, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria.

Following that operation, the Palestinians learned that Israel will not hesitate to go deep into the territories “to return security to Israel’s citizens,” he said.

The current government, Netanyahu added, is continuing to implement that principle, “going everywhere west of the Jordan River, whenever it is needed.”

By acting against the organized sources of terrorism, Israel has left them unable to carry out significant attacks, he said, meaning that what remains is the lone attacker. There is no organized terrorism because Israel is not letting the organizations operate, he said.

The Shin Bet official added that effective steps Israel has taken to thwart Jewish terrorist attacks, as well as to uncover the infrastructure that led to the Duma arson and other “price tag” actions, also have worked to calm the situation.