Middle East Was the Locus of Terrorist Acts in 1986

More than one-fourth of all international terrorist attacks in 1986 occurred in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the State Department revealed last week in its annual report on “Patterns of Global Terrorism.”

The 41-page report found that attacks worldwide perpetrated by Mideast terrorists killed more than 450 persons in 1986 — nearly double 1985 casualty figures. Also, more terrorist incidents occurred in 1986 in the Middle East than in any other part of the world, constituting 46 percent of the worldwide total of 774 terrorist acts.

In analyzing the 195 acts of terrorism committed in Israel and the territories, the report found that “most of these incidents were low–level attacks — isolated shootings or stabbings and many fire bombings.”

But it termed some of the 195 acts as “more serious,” such as the October 1986 bombing of a crowd of soldiers and civilians at the Western Wall.

In assessing the acts committed strictly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the report found that most of those incidents consisted of “small–scale incendiary bombings against property, but Israeli citizens were killed or wounded in several attacks.”

Some of the acts involved attempts by Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate northern Israel from Lebanon. In one of the attempts, “a joint Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–Syrian Social Nationalist Party squad attempted a raid on an Israeli resort town, but was intercepted offshore,” the report said.

Other acts were committed by Jewish extremists, the State Department found. It concluded that “Israeli extremists conducted about a dozen retaliatory attacks against Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

The 774 worldwide terrorist incidents in 1986 represented a slight decrease from the 1985 record level of 782. The report noted that 1986 saw the tailing off of the “dramatic upward trend” in the number of terrorist acts between 1983 and 1985.

LIBYA RAID CITED

The State Department attributed the tailing off to the deterrent effects of the U.S. bombing of Libya in April 1986 and the subsequent European diplomatic and security sanctions against Libya and Syria.

While the report found the number of Mideast incidents largely unchanged from 1985 to 1986, it found that “spillover” attacks into Western Europe declined near 50 percent — from 74 in 1985 to 39 the following year.

The report attributed that decline to the breakdown of the peace accord between Jordan’s King Hussein and Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which “resulted in fewer attacks by radical Palestinians on Jordanian and PLO targets.”

Also, it argued that “record levels of Middle Eastern attacks in Western Europe in 1985 led to enhanced local security.”

While casualties worldwide dropped from 825 persons in 1985 to 576 in 1986, the report attributed that decline to “one incident — 329 deaths from the 1985 Air India bombing” in 1985.

“Moreover, 1986 could have included as many as 800 more deaths if several attempted aircraft bombings had succeeded,” the report added.

U.S. citizens were targets in 204 of the 774 incidents, including roughly 50 in Western Europe. The majority of U.S. terrorist casualties occurred in Western Europe, “most as a result of attacks by Middle Eastern rather than European terrorists,” the report stated.

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