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Shin Bet says foiled 250 terror attacks since January crediting big data

(L-R) New Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, former Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen, President Reuven Rivlin and Nechama Rivlin
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

The head of Israel’s security service announced on Wednesday that some 250 terror attacks had been thwarted since January, attributing achievements to the organizations use of big data and artificial intelligence.

Nadav Argaman, speaking at an international counter-terrorism conference hosted by the Public Security Ministry in Jerusalem, said attacks included planned suicide attacks, kidnapping and gunfire. “The map of threats and challenges is varied and covers multiple unstable and difficult fronts,” he said.

The Shin Bet chief explained that there was a changing nature of security threats in Israel and the West Bank, characterized more recently by “lone-wolf” attacks by unaffiliated individuals inspired by radical discourse.

“The great investment in technological developments in the worlds of ‘big data,’ machine learning, and artificial intelligence, by the Shin Bet has created a great leap forward from intelligence extraction to intelligence prediction for the purposes of preventing terror attacks and terrorist intentions before they’re carried out,” he said.

He added that, “the security service knew to adapt itself and use technological, intelligence and operational tools in order to find these assailants ahead of time.”

Jack Guez (AFP/File)

Argaman said that the Shin Bet still relied on “classic” intelligence methods of combating terrorism, alongside the new more advanced technology.

The comments were made after the Shin Bet revealed on Wednesday the arrest last week of a Palestinian man suspected of dropping a large concrete slab from a rooftop during an IDF arrest operation in the West Bank last month, killing 20-year-old Staff Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky.

In total, during 2017, the Shin Bet says it uncovered and foiled 400 terror attacks that were being hatched in the West Bank including 13 planned suicides and 18 abductions. The decrease in lone wolf attacks from the year before, was credited with a set of new policies and tools adopted.

However, since US President Donald Trump’s widely-contested decision to announce the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Shin Bet predicted that the next six month “at least” would be “a highly unstable period.”

The Shin Bet has been working to devise various mechanisms for identifying independent “lone wolves” for the past two years.

As security services around the world grapple with the similar threats, officials from the United States and Europe have in recent months visited the Shin Bet HQ in north Tel Aviv to study the agency’s methods for locating individual terrorists.

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