- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

TEL AVIV — Israelis had their safest year in 2007 from terrorist attacks since the start of the Palestinian uprising, with 13 killed and one suicide bombing, according to the Israeli Shin Bet security agency.

Palestinian fatalities from clashes with the Israeli army dropped 44 percent to 373.

On the other hand, nearly the same number of Palestinians died at the hands of their brethren as internal fighting spiked during Hamas’ violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli fatality numbers — almost negligible relative to the 426 persons who died at the peak of the attacks in 2002 — suggest that the seven-year militant uprising has lost considerable steam and that the Israeli barrier sealing off parts of the West Bank is working as planned.

“There’s been a decline in volume of terror even if the motivation hasn’t dropped,” the Shin Bet wrote in a year-end report. “The multiyear trend of decline [in the] numbers of suicide attacks continues and, as a result, the number of fatalities.”

Having thwarted suicide bombers, the main threats to Israelis are primitive short-range Qassam rockets fired out of Gaza into southern Israel.

Though the rockets are inaccurate and carry a weak explosive head, the constant firing has kept Israeli residents in a state of psychological distress, the report says.

On the Palestinian side of the border, 344 persons were killed in factional fighting, the largest number killed in internal violence since the start of the uprising in September 2000.

All of the fatalities were in Gaza, where Hamas staged a successful takeover in June.

The toll has continued to rise since. At least eight Palestinians were killed in clashes between Hamas and Fatah during the first two days of 2008.

At least three Palestinian militants were injured yesterday in a failed attempt by Israel to assassinate a Palestinian militant leader.

“The number of Israelis and Palestinians killed in clashes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip dropped,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said in its year-end report.

“However, there has been deterioration in many other measures of the human rights situation in the occupied territories. The primary one is the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which has declined to an all-time low.”

The rights group also said that the number of Palestinians held by Israel without trial rose 13 percent to 830, while the population of Israeli settlers in the West Bank grew by 4.5 percent.

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