Israeli police and security agencies are braced for a wave of terror orchestrated by Iran, according to a report by Jewish Chronicle.
The warning comes following murders of four people in a terror stabbing attack at shopping centre in Be’er Sheva on Tuesday, the deadliest attack in Israel in 6 years.
The attack was the third terror incident in just a week after a 35-year-old man was stabbed and lightly wounded in Jerusalem on Saturday and two policemen were lightly injured when they were stabbed in east Jerusalem on Sunday.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz confirmed that the incident has prompted the security establishment to raise the alert levels in Israel.
“We are on high alert against all threats in all areas,” he said. “We will make sure that anyone who encourages or supports the latest attacks will pay a price.”
Surge in online jihadi material
According to the report, there has been a surge in online jihadi material calling for “resistance” attacks in Israel in the past few weeks, believed to be driven by Iran.
Security analysts fear the latest killings may mark the opening of a terror campaign which is likely to escalate during the month of Ramadan, which starts in April.
A police source told Jewish Chronicle that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have been “trained by a shadowy Iranian group in how to use social media platforms to sow hatred for Jews among Arab Israelis.”
“Social media is being used by the terror groups and now plays a critical role in inspiring lone wolf attacks,” the source said.
Referring to the Islamist behind the Be’er Sheva attack this week, the source continued, “We will be looking very closely at the platforms he used and what he read and posted, as we would with anyone suspected of crimes of this type.”
Dr Michael Barak, from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya – author of an upcoming report on the use of social media in recruiting jihadis and triggering attacks – told the JC that recent weeks have seen an “upsurge” in organised incitement, especially on the Telegram and TikTok platforms.
“On Telegram, Hamas is urging Palestinians in the West Bank to go to the checkpoints and attack Israelis,” Dr Barak said. “On TikTok, there are videos showing attacks on Charedi Jews in Jersualem, and urging young people to carry out more such attacks as acts of ‘resistance’ to Israeli occupation.”
He said Israel had tried to persuade TikTok – which is Chinese owned – to take down such videos, but the company had not done so. “With these posts, I think there will be a big increase in attacks,” he said. There were “Hamas sleeper cells” in Jerusalem, he added.
Dr Barak revealed that at the heart of the terror groups’ increasingly sophisticated use of social media is the Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), which has had a branch in Gaza since 2014, opened by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Dr Barak’s forthcoming report will state that IRTVU reports to Iran’s Islamic Culture and Guidance Bureau and serves as “the propaganda arm of the Quds Force” – which, he said, is an “integral part of the IRGC”.
Arrests prevented terror attacks during Ramadan
Meanwhile, four residents of east Jerusalem were charged on Friday over alleged ties to Hamas, with police prosecutors charging some to have planned attacks in the coming month after conducting weapons training and meetings with terror group officials in Turkey.
Officials have warned of a possible flare-up of violence during Ramadan next month.
Shin Bet head Ronen Bar held talks with his FBI counterpart in Washington this week on the matter. And Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, warned in response to several recent stabbing attacks in Jerusalem, that “terrorists and extremists will try to set the area on fire” in the coming weeks.