Abstract: During the spring of 2022, Israel suffered six attacks by lone actors or local networks—at least three inspired by Palestinian organizations and at least two by the global jihad—and a multitude of thwarted plots. The motivations that underpinned the spring 2022 wave of attacks (and previous waves) appear to have been a combination of ideological and personal, including psychological problems, and a desire for ‘honor.’ Irresponsible media coverage increased the impact of these recent terror attacks. Israeli media needs to adopt baseline editorial standards for the coverage of terrorist attacks to ensure that it is professional, reliable, and responsible, and will not play into the hands of terrorists.
In recent years, the month of Ramadan has been characterized by an escalation in political violence and terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.a Given that this important Muslim holiday has been coupled with the deliberate and targeted incitement by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and global jihadis as well as extremist religious preachers calling for violence and terrorist attacks, it is hardly surprising that every year during Ramadan, there is a rise in terrorist attacks in Israel. This year, Ramadan took place during April, a particularly significant period of festivals for the Jewish public as well, including Passover, one of the three pilgrimage festivals when devout Jews are commanded to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; the national holidays and memorial days marking Holocaust Remembrance Day; Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers; Jerusalem Day; and Independence Day, the date of the founding of the State of Israel (marked by Palestinians as “al-Nakba”—the Day of Catastrophe). Both sides’ religious and national holidays are exploited by extremists to inflame tensions and carry out extreme acts in an effort to lead others to follow them and further ignite the fire.
This article first outlines the spate of attacks that took place in Israel in the spring of 2022. It then assesses the driving factors behind the recent wave of attacks and compares it to previous waves of terrorism in Israel. The final section focuses on the often sensationalist and unfiltered coverage of the attacks by Israeli media. Terrorism is designed to terrify, and the way these attacks were reported increased their psychological impact on the Israeli population.
The Spring 2022 Terror Wave in Israel
The wave of terrorism that befell Israel between March and May 2022 came after a quiet period during which the Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, namely Hamas and PIJ, maintained relative quiet. After Operation Guardian of the Walls, an 11-day assault in May 2021 that saw nearly 4,400 rockets launched toward Israel, Hamas and PIJ leadership put a stop to common tactics utilized by their members such as intermittently firing rockets from Gaza and launching incendiary balloons to set fire to agricultural fields in southern Israel.1 This calm came about against the backdrop of the new Israeli government’s policy of allowing the resumption of payments from Qatar to Gaza residents,2 as well as Egypt’s restraining influence on the arena.
This is not to say that Hamas and PIJ ceased their subversive activities in the West Bank, however. Rather, they have continued their attempts to establish sleeper terrorist cells in the area, challenge the leadership of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmood Abbas, and, above all, incite and call for Palestinians in the territories to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis. Indeed, the governance failure in the West Bank has worsened over the past year, creating areas (for example, in Jenin) that quickly became lawless and extraterritorial, from which Palestinian security forces have fled and where some young Palestinians have responded to the terrorist organizations’ incitement by carrying out attacks in Israel. This was seen in a series of ‘lone actor’ or ‘local network’ attacks in Israel and the West Bank that started in late March, on the eve of Ramadan, and continued into April and May. However, this series of terrorist attacks recently carried out in Israel had a stronger nexus to global jihadism than prior waves of violence.
By early May 2022, Israel had suffered six attacks and had thwarted over a dozen attacks in the spring wave of violence.3 The first of these attacks took place on March 22 in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, and was carried out by an Arab citizen of Israel, Mohammed Abu al-Kiyan, a resident of the Bedouin village of Hura.4 Abu al-Kiyan ran over a cyclist with his vehicle, killing him, and then embarked on a stabbing spree of passers-by that resulted in the murder of three more civilians and the wounding of two others before Abu al-Kiyan was shot dead by an Israeli civilian. The attack stood out not only because it was carried out by an Israeli citizen (a very uncommon phenomenon among Israeli Arabs, who constitute about 17 percent of the country’s citizens5 and who, with a small number of exceptions, traditionally avoid involvement in terrorist attacks), but also because its perpetrator was inspired by the Islamic State.6 The terrorist had served a sentence in Israeli prison between 2016 and 2020 for his support of the Islamic State after he was caught trying to cross the border into Syria to join the organization.7 In this context, too, the attack was unusual because Arab Israeli society is largely opposed to the Islamic State’s global salafi jihadi ideology. When there has been support for terrorism from a small number of individuals in the community, it has been for Palestinian organizations and has stemmed from familial, cultural, and/or nationalist ties rather than from global salafi jihadi ideology. In this sense, the attack in Be’er Sheva is more similar to those carried out by second- and third-generation immigrants in Europe inspired by the Islamic State who executed attacks individually or as a part of local networks in various countries. Like Abu al-Kiyan, some did so after serving prison sentences for various (usually criminal) offenses and underwent accelerated radicalization processes while in prison.8
A few days later, on March 27, 2022, another terrorist attack was carried out in the Israeli city of Hadera.9 Two cousins from the Agbaria family in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm planned and executed a complex attack in the heart of Israel. The two perpetrators, also Israeli citizens inspired by the Islamic State rather than Palestinian organizations, entered the center of the city armed with pistols, shot and killed two Border Police officers at a bus stop, snatched their automatic weapons (M16s), and embarked on a shooting spree that injured five Israeli citizens using magazines and M16 ammunition they had obtained ahead of the attack.10 The terrorists quickly encountered two officers from the Border Police’s special undercover unit who happened to be at the scene and shot dead the terrorists.11 Prior to the attack, the two terrorists filmed themselves in front of an Islamic State flag, swearing allegiance to the group.12 As with the Be’er Shiva attacker, one terrorist had served a sentence in Israeli prison for supporting the Islamic State and attempting to join the organization in Syria.13
Two days later, on March 29, 2022, a third attack was carried out in a central Israeli city, Bnei Brak, by a Palestinian terrorist, Dia Hamarsha, a resident of the Ya’bad village in the Jenin district.14 Due to the proximity of the events, it is probable that Hamarsha was inspired by the two preceding attacks, though this time the perpetrator was a Palestinian from the territories in Israel illegally.15 He arrived on the scene bearing an automatic weapon and killed four passers-by and a police officer before being shot dead by the police.16 The 26-year-old terrorist had previously served a prison sentence in Israel for belonging to a Palestinian terrorist group and was likely inspired by similar organizations.17 One unique aspect of this attack was the fact that the terrorist used an automatic weapon, in contrast to the majority of the lone-actor terrorist attacks of the past carried out by terrorists from the West Bank and East Jerusalem using cold weapons (e.g., knives, screwdrivers, and other sharp objects).18 Following this attack and considering the attacks that preceded it, Israel launched a military operation to seize wanted individuals in Jenin and its surroundings, with the aim of thwarting further attacks and stabilizing security in the region. The operation involved clashes and exchanges of fire with Palestinian militants in the area.19
About a week later, on April 7, 2022, six days after the start of Ramadan, another shooting attack was carried out, this time on Tel Aviv’s central Dizengoff Street by a lone terrorist actor who fired an automatic weapon at Israeli civilians sitting in a local bar.20 The terrorist, Ra’ad Hazem, a Palestinian resident of Jenin who was residing in Israel illegally,21 arrived on the scene armed with a gun and murdered three civilians, wounding six.22 After a long manhunt, Hazem was shot and killed by security services the next morning in Jaffa. According to the Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet), he had “no clear organizational affiliation” and appears to have carried out the attack as a copycat of the previous attacks.23 Notably, the perpetrator’s father is a former senior member of the Palestinian Authority’s general security forces.24
On April 29, 2022, a security guard in Ariel, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, was shot by Youssef Sameeh Assi and Yahya Marei, two Palestinians coming from a nearby village25 who used improvised Carlo submachine guns. They had entered Israel illegally, and one had previously served time in an Israeli jail.26 While Israeli officials did not link the attack to a specific organization, both Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.27 According to news reporting, the attackers conducted preliminary surveillance prior to the attack, and “drove to the area, went to a high point overlooking the settlement entrance, and observed the community’s gate and its security.” They “were local, knew the area well and were already familiar with the entrance to the settlement.”28
Finally, on May 5, 2022, As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Sbeihat, 20, from Jenin, entered the ultra-orthodox city of Elad in central Israel. Armed with an axe and a knife, they killed three people and injured several others.29 The attack, which took place during the evening of the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, came after a call by Hamas’ leader, Yahya Sinwar, to continue attacks against Israelis using a cleaver, an axe, or a knife.30 The perpetrators were arrested in a nearby forest after a 60-hour manhunt. After the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet announced that Israel was “at the beginning of a new stage in the war on terror.”31
Indeed, in the second half of April, following the first three attacks, tensions had continued to increase, mainly as the result of riots32 by young Israeli Arabs and Palestinians on the Temple Mount and their subsequent containment by Israeli police in order to protect Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall. These young men, who had brought rocks and stones to be thrown at the worshippers and policemen, entrenched themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These young rioters tried to inflame the Palestinian masses, incite further terrorist attacks in Israel, and encourage the intervention of Palestinian terrorist organizations by firing rockets into Israel from Gaza (as had occurred the year before) under the pretext of “protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and supporting the rioting youth.33
In assessing terrorist activity, it is helpful to classify terrorist attacks (in Israel and around the world) into three types.34 The first is terrorist attacks by ‘lone actors,’ which are inspired attacks by individuals who have undergone a process of radicalization most often due to exposure to incitement. Most operate in solidarity with one terrorist organization or another, although they have not been recruited or trained by it, nor have they benefited from any operational assistance for their attack.
The second category comprises attacks by local independent networks. Similar to the first group, these are attacks inspired by one organization or another, but without any operational ties to them. Unlike the previous group, this involves not one perpetrator, but a small group of terrorists—two or more—who are usually relatives or close friends who underwent radicalization processes and decided to carry out the attack together.
The third type of terrorist attack is organized attacks. These are carried out by a terrorist cell belonging to an organization and consisting of operatives recruited into the organization, trained by it, and sent on its behalf to carry out the attack while receiving operational assistance from it.
In light of this classification, it can be determined that all of the attacks carried out in Israel over the course of the spring 2022 wave were attacks executed by lone actors (for example, the Be’er Sheva attack) or local networks (as in the case of the Hadera attack) inspired by Palestinian terrorist organizations or the Islamic State. In contrast to the terrorist waves of the 1990s and 2000s in Israel, most of which were organized suicide bombings (belonging to the third category of organized attacks), these were not suicide attacks—though most of the perpetrators did die while carrying out the attack, likely took into account that there was a chance they would be killed, and may even have wanted to die. These attacks should be seen as ‘sacrifice’ attacks, which are inherently different from suicide bombings (which involve the guaranteed death of the perpetrator).35
The motivations that underpinned the spring 2022 wave of attacks (similar to the those that motivated the lone terrorists in previous waves in Israel) appear to have been a combination of several factors36—ideological motivations (Palestinian and Islamist nationalism), personal motivations (personal, family, economic, or other crises), psychological factors (mental illness, psychological instability, suicidal aspirations), and a desire for honor (protection of religion, nationality, family, wife, etc.).37 Most of the perpetrators (even those whose main motive was ideological) apparently had a problematic personal history and in some cases also clinical psychological disorders.38
A distinction must be made between the terrorist attacks carried out by Israeli citizens inspired by the Islamic State and attacks by Palestinians that came from the territories and acted in the name of Palestinian causes. Islamic State-inspired (and global jihadi-inspired) attacks have been rare in Israel in the past,39 but this is the first time that there have been Islamic State-inspired attacks in such quick succession, possibly indicating a trend of escalation.
Past terror waves in Israel have begun with organized incitement just before and during holidays, commemoration days, and regional geopolitical events, continuing with terrorist attacks inspired by this incitement, and ending (if the parties fail to contain it) in a direct, high-intensity confrontation (the firing of thousands of rockets and hundreds of Israeli bombing raids) between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The spring 2022 wave shared many of these characteristics, although it is notable that several of the attacks took place before the Ramadan religious holiday and the surge in inflammatory rhetoric by extremist voices.
The Media Angle
The recent terrorist attacks brought about a surge of internal criticism in Israel about the media coverage (in particular, the shooting on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv). The majority of these attacks, taken alone, were nothing more than a tactical violent incident that led to a small number of casualties. However, emotional Israeli media coverage triggered existential anxiety that affected not only thousands of residents of the center of the country, but in the case of the Tel Aviv shooting, inspired profound fear among hundreds of thousands of TV viewers who had friends or family members in the area where the attack took place and who sat at home glued to their screens. This, of course, is a strategic achievement for terrorism. Terrorism is intended to sow anxiety.40 Killing people is not the goal in and of itself, but merely a means of spreading fear and anxiety.
In order for a tactical terrorist attack to become a strategic success, terrorists must be assisted by sensationalist and unfiltered coverage on the part of the media and sometimes also by security forces’ poor communication with the public during an emergency situation. Both of these dynamics occurred during the spring 2022 wave of attacks. Reporters from various TV channels on the ground competed with each other for air time, searching for the most sensational and frightening news and images they could find. This included footage of policemen and armed citizens’ panicked running whenever a dubious report arose of suspects being in various places (these reports largely being a natural result of the anxiety created among the public by the media coverage itself) as well as close-up photos showing large groups of policemen, soldiers, and armed civilians whipped into a hysteria, pointing their loaded weapons at a deserted balcony and stairwells in the heart of Tel Aviv.41 And, if that was not bad enough, the eager reporters, cameras in hand, joined the police forces as they searched homes and yards, giving the viewers a rare opportunity to take part in a ‘special forces patrol,’ bringing to mind an episode of Fauda, the hit fictional Israeli TV show about the IDF. No camera angle or abrasive statement was missed. The media took advantage of the Israeli law enforcement agencies’ poor communication skills to increase ratings, to the detriment of the Israeli public’s resilience.
On April 8, 2022, spokespeople for the three main security forces in Israel—the IDF, the Israel Police, and the Shin Bet—issued a joint open letter addressed to “all Israeli media outlets,” criticizing the media’s conduct during the shooting attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv the night before.42 In their letter, the three wrote:
The difficult terror attack that occurred on Dizengoff Street and the fact that the scene of the attack was not immediately sealed led, to our disappointment, to media behavior that brought to mind scenes from a television program to which there is no connection to media coverage of a security situation. Some of the TV channels turned the hunt for the terrorist into actual reality TV, without any censorship or self-criticism. The media broadcast what was happening live; the footage of the pursuit of the despicable terrorist was broadcast without any filter, to every home in Israel, and unfortunately also to the enemy.
In response, Israel’s leading TV channel, Channel 12, through its chief political analyst and anchor Dana Weiss, made the following statement on April 9, 2022:43
Our goal is to always bring to the public what happens on the ground. We hear the responses, attuned to criticism, and check ourselves to be better. We, as well as journalists from all over the world, together with the security forces, have been in an event unbeknown to us, under the fog of war when there was a real scare at times—and all of it happening in the middle of Tel Aviv. Our reporters also risked their lives fearing they may be fired upon at any given moment. It is important for us to say that our broadcast was accompanied, as always, by IDF censorship that in nights like this are present in our studios. At no point during the broadcast has any image been censored by the military censorship; and when requested by the police to stay away from the scene, we complied. That said, we at Channel 12 News conducted long discussions to draw conclusions from the broadcast. We are not going to make it easy on ourselves. We know that mistakes have been made, however they came from one place—our desire to bring our viewers the whole picture. We will learn our lessons to be better going forward.
In 1997, following the first wave of suicide bombings in Israel, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at Reichman University convened all the editors-in-chief of the Israeli media for a joint discussion on the media coverage of those attacks.44 The institute’s experts, including this author, suggested establishing a number of voluntary rules whose adoption by the media could reduce the deep anxiety that the coverage of the attacks caused among the public. These included avoiding close-ups of dead bodies and the wounded, preventing broadcasts of scenes of extreme panic, and more. These rules were intended to help find the delicate balance between recognizing the right and need of the public to know in real-time what is happening on the ground, while at the same time not playing into the hands of terrorists, intensifying public anxiety, and turning a tactical event into a strategic attack. The editors-in-chief of the country’s media outlets listened to the analyses and recommendations but rejected them outright on the grounds that they allegedly constituted an interference with their professional work.45 It is the view of this author that the editors’ considerations at the time were about nothing more than ratings.
Some have argued that the role of the traditional media in covering terrorist attacks has eroded and become irrelevant in light of the flourishing of social networks and the change in the information consumption habits of young people around the world.46 However, the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Israel once again illustrates the extent to which the traditional media, and especially television channels, still play a central and important role in shaping public opinion and in reducing (or intensifying) the public’s fear and anxiety when terrorist attacks occur, especially in dense, urban populations. Twenty-five years after the meeting with Israeli media chiefs at ICT, it is still appropriate to call on the media to adopt baseline editorial standards for the coverage of terrorist attacks to ensure that it is professional, reliable, and responsible, without playing into the hands of terrorists. This should, and can, be done while preserving the public’s right to know and the professional considerations of the media outlets themselves. CTC
Prof. Boaz Ganor is the founder and executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), an associate professor and former dean at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy and the Ronald Lauder Chair for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University. His latest book, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy: Origins to Present, was published by Columbia University Press in 2021.
Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series examining the terrorist threat landscape in Israel and the lessons other countries can learn from Israel’s counterterrorism efforts. The series is a joint effort between the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC) and the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at Reichman University in Israel.
© 2022 Boaz Ganor
[a] The same is true for some other theaters of conflict. See Shelly Kittleson, “Islamic State ramps up attacks in Iraq during Ramadan,” Al-Monitor, May 3, 2020.
 “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” IDF website, June 14, 2021.
 Video footage of the attack via KAN News, YouTube, March 22, 2022; Emanuel Fabian and Aaron Boxerman, “4 killed, 2 wounded in stabbing attack at Beersheba mall; terrorist shot dead,” Times of Israel, March 22, 2022.
 Elior Levy and Matan Tzuri, “Israel says terrorist who killed 4 in Be’er Sheva was affiliated with Islamic State,” Ynet, March 22, 2022.
 For a comparative analysis of the radicalization dynamics of earlier waves of violence in Europe and the West Bank and Gaza, see Boaz Ganor, “An Intifada in Europe? A Comparative Analysis of Radicalization Processes among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza versus Muslim Immigrants in Europe,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34:8 (2011): pp. 587-599.
 Video footage of the attack via KAN News, YouTube, March 28, 2022; “Terror in Hadera: Two Border Police officers killed in ISIS attack,” Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2022.
 Video footage of the attack via Ynet, YouTube, March 30, 2022; Eliav Breuer and Jerusalem Post staff, “Five killed in Bnei Brak shooting as Israel enters ‘new wave of terror,’” Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2022.
 Video footage of the attack via KipaVoD, YouTube, April 8, 2022.
 Author interview, senior Israeli security official, May 2022.
 This observation is based on open-source research by the author on social media, conversations with Israeli counterterrorism officials, and Elior Levi and Einav Halabi, “Conflict at the Temple Mont: Rioters fortify themselves in the Mosque and throw dangerous objects” Ynet, May 5, 2022 (in Hebrew).
 Ariel Merari, Driven to Death: Psychological and Social Aspects of Suicide Terrorism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
 This comparison of the motivations of spring 2022 attackers to earlier terror waves is based on open-source research by the author, conversations the author had with Israeli counterterrorism officials, and research the author conducted with Prof. Ariel Merari for the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, which included interviews in the prisons with 45 lone actors. See Ariel Merari and Boaz Ganor, “Lone Actor Attacks: Analysis of the Psychological Profile and Motivations of Lone Actors in Israel (2015-2017),” Ministry of Public Security, December 2018 (in Hebrew).
 Dana Weiss, “News Announcement Following the Coverage of the Dizengoff Attack,” Channel 12 News, April 9, 2022 (translated by author).
 “Contending With Terror: Psychological Aspects,” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), June 26-27, 1997.
 Boaz Ganor, The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle: A Guide to Decision Makers (New York: Routledge, 2006).