There has been a sharp increase in the number of attempted terror attacks since the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit last October, according to the outgoing commander of the Binyamin division, Col. Saar Tzur.
"Prison is like university for the terrorists – anyone who goes in comes out upgraded," Tzur said in an interview with Army Radio. He said that following the Schalit deal, there was a noticeable increase in the number of attempted terror attacks both in the Judea and Samaria region, which falls under his command, and inside Israel proper.
"It doesn't matter whether they were released to Gaza, the West Bank or abroad – we see a return to terrorism,” Tzur said. “Another problem is a considerable increase in the flow of funding [to terrorist groups]."
Tzur, who as of next month will be commanding the 401 armored brigade, also said the Israel Defense Forces had to increase its activities in recent months due to the ongoing attempts between Hamas and Fatah to reach a reconciliation agreement, which has meant that the Palestinian Authority has cut down its operations against possible terrorist groups.
"Civilians don't notice it, but we're working a lot harder – lots more pinpoint operations aimed at capturing cells while they are still at the planning, rather than operational, stage," he said.
Tzur has commanded the Binyamin division for the last four years. He told Army Radio that in the first year, he spent most of his time dealing with young right-wing activists involved in price-tag attacks, as well as physical and verbal violence against him and his troops. He says there has been a marked improvement in the last six months, and describes the relations with the settlers as "good."
However, he says the recent arson attacks against mosques in Palestinians towns are a painful reminder of just how delicate the situation is and that the settler heads need to show real leadership.