The surge in terrorist attacks in Israel, the deadliest wave of violence since 2016, has been framed by Palestinian parties and militant groups as a logical consequence of the entrenchment of Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank, of Israel’s control over sensitive religious sites in Jerusalem, and of the dwindling commitment from some key Arab leaders to the creation of a Palestinian state.
The attackers’ diverse backgrounds, however, have left both Palestinian and Israeli analysts and officials uncertain about the relationship between the attacks, the motivations of the attackers and the timing of their attacks.
Prior to the attack in Elad on Thursday, there had been several attacks across cities in Israel, involving Arab assailants who have killed 14 people, including two Arab police officers and two Ukrainians. But beyond their lethal outcomes, the episodes have not fit easily within a simple narrative.
Two of the most recent attacks — in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak — were carried out by Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. While praised by several Palestinian movements, no group has formally claimed responsibility for them.
Two earlier attacks were carried out by three members of Israel’s Arab minority who had known sympathies for the Islamic State, the extremist group that has no ties to the Palestinian national movement and that claimed responsibility, perhaps opportunistically, for one incident but not the other.
While the lethal outcome of the first attack, on March 22, may have inspired the others to follow suit, a senior Israeli military officer said there was no evidence that any of them were masterminded by a major Palestinian group, let alone by the same network. Analysts also noted that the attackers in the first two incidents had no ideological connection to the latest two.