The use of bombs by terrorist factions in Judea and Samaria based on reverse-engineered Iranian improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is becoming a growing menace.
A year and a half ago, Tehran took the strategic decision to significantly step up attacks on Israel using proxies and partners located within and around the Jewish state.
The decision was driven in part by the Islamic Republic’s frustration over its inability to retaliate for a series of blasts and incidents affecting its nuclear program and conventional weapons sites in Iran and across the Middle East.
In line with this decision, Hezbollah stirs up provocations on Israel’s northern border, while Iranian influence also reaches into Judea and Samaria, with weapons, cash and explosives trickling in despite Israeli interceptions of smuggling efforts.
Iran’s modus operandi is not just to inflict immediate harm through these smuggled devices but to enable proxies and partners such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to dissect the Iranian IEDs, understand their composition and then produce similar bombs locally.
This is a long-term strategy centered more on knowledge transfer than the immediate use of smuggled IEDs.
This comes as terrorists increasingly employ the tactic of IED attacks against the Israel Defense Forces. On Wednesday night, four Israeli soldiers from the elite Egoz unit were wounded by an IED during an operation in Nablus (Shechem) to secure Israeli civilian entry to Joseph’s Tomb.
The unit was part of a larger operation involving three battalions establishing a security perimeter to allow three buses filled with Jewish worshippers to reach the holy site.
The wounded soldiers were evacuated to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah with varying degrees of injury. Despite this, the buses arrived at their intended destination, underscoring the resolve of the IDF to enable freedom of worship for the pilgrims.
The IED used in the Nablus attack was locally produced, but that does not detract from the truth that Iran’s paramount goal is to transfer IED-making knowledge to the Judea and Samaria arena.
The Iranians have a history of transferring weapons technology to extend their destabilizing influence.
Their transfer of “suicide” unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia and their supply of rockets to Gaza (before Egypt sealed the Sinai border) are examples of this.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have used Iranian expertise to mass-produce their own rockets in Gaza.
In the last two weeks alone, Israeli forces intercepted two attempts to smuggle in Iranian explosives. In the first instance, reported on Aug. 24, Arab Israeli citizens were caught in Lod with Claymore mine-type explosives directly linked to Hezbollah.
In the second case, just three days later, two large explosives were seized during an attempt to smuggle them from Jordan into Israel. Though it remains unclear if these explosives originated from Iran via Syria or Iraq, Iran’s involvement is palpable.
The Alma Research and Education Center, a defense research group specializing in Lebanon and Syria, recently assessed that Iran uses drug smuggling routes connecting Syria to northern Jordan as conduits for also bringing IEDs and rocket parts into Judea and Samaria.
The center also noted recent alleged Jordanian airstrikes targeting these drug-smuggling routes, though no official Jordanian announcement has been made.
Ultimately, a calibrated Iranian effort is underway aimed not just at immediate destabilization in Judea and Samaria but also at enabling localized Palestinian arms production, thereby creating a new level of threat.
It is fair to assume that the Israeli defense establishment and intelligence community are closely monitoring and counteracting these efforts when they detect them, but the disturbing question of how many such IEDs have already gotten through remains unanswered at this time.
Israel’s plan to build a new security barrier on the Jordanian border will help deal with the threat. Nevertheless, the announcement by the IDF in March 2021 of the interception of Iranian drones heading for Gaza carrying firearms, in what was likely an Iranian test run, demonstrates that border fences alone will not be enough to deal with this long-term threat.