In Palestinian terminology, the shooting attacks are called amaliyat istish'hadiya - self-sacrifice actions - the same term that is used to describe suicide actions generally. In Israeli nomenclature, these actions are termed "shooting attacks with a self-sacrificial nature," to distinguish them from actions in which attackers detonate explosives that they either carry or wear. o Tanzim among Suicides. The recent violence has also brought members of the Palestinian security services into the ranks of the suicide attackers.
This indicates a closer connection between PA officialdom and the radical Islamic movements.
Hamas' main infrastructure for organizing suicide attacks is in the northern West Bank, especially in the Nablus area, while the Islamic Jihad is concentrated in Jenin. The Jihad's Jenin-based infrastructure was responsible for all of that organization's suicide attacks, which were carried out in the Sharon region of Israel. While both of these organizations have branches in Gaza, their operatives have not succeeded in infiltrating into Israel proper; consequently, the majority of their attacks were carried out against soldiers and settlers within the Gaza Strip.
Women in Suicide Attacks
The use of women in suicide attacks is another new phenomenon. To date, five women, all of them members of Fatah, have attempted or carried out such attacks. The first of these, Wafa Edris, was from the Ama'ari refugee camp near Ramallah. Edris blew herself up on January 27, 2001, in an attack on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road. On February 27, 2002, Darin Abu-Aisha blew herself up near the Maccabim roadblock, injuring three Border Police.
On March 29, 2002, Iyat Al-Akhras, 18 years old and from the Dahaishe refugee camp, blew herself up in an attack on a Jerusalem supermarket. Andalib Takatka, a resident of Bethlehem, blew herself up in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on April 12, 2002. Finally, Shifa Alqudsi, a would-be female suicide attacker from Tulkarm, was captured en route to carrying out her suicide mission.
The use of women in suicide attacks reflects a certain flexibility that has developed in recent years. In a conversation the author held with Sheikh Ahmad Yassin on March 6, 1995 in Ashmoret Penitentiary, Yassin noted that Islam did not involve women in suicide bombings. This ruling may have changed, in light of evolving needs and circumstances.
The renewed violence also saw the first-ever suicide attack by an Arab-Israeli. The attacker, a resident of Abu-Snein named Shaker Hubayshi, blew himself up in an attack on a train station in the northern town of Nahariya. Three Israelis were killed and 30 wounded. Hubayshi was also unique for other reasons: 48 years old, he was the oldest-ever suicide bomber. He was also an established member of his community, married with children, and a former candidate for a regional council post. In every respect, Hubayshi defied the familiar profile for a potential suicide bomber.
Hubayshi's act fits into the context of a nationalistic radicalization taking place among Arab-Israelis, resulting in greater support for Palestinian armed struggle in the West Bank and Gaza. This observation seems to be reinforced by the discovery of a group of three Arab-Israelis (Muhammad Mahamid, Abdullah Ma'alawani, and Ali Manasra) who had planned attacks together with Hamas activists in the West Bank.
The three were all residents of the town of Umm el-Fahm, and supporters of radical Arab-Israeli Islamist leader Ra'ad Salah. They were recruited into Hamas in April 2001 by an activist named Ali Shawahana, while at Al-Najah University in Nablus. Together with their colleagues from the West Bank, a series of attacks were planned, including kidnapping soldiers and suicide attacks.
On August 18, 2001, one of the three was arrested by the security services, only a single day before an attack planned against a bank in the town of Hadera was set to proceed.
The Causes and Motives for the
The sense of fulfilling a greater religious calling has been and continues to be the primary incentive for carrying out suicide attacks against Israelis and Jews. It should be borne in mind that this calling has both nationalistic-ideological and religious components; these have been intertwined since the establishment of the State of Israel and even before.
The present violence has seen a growing religious dimension, despite the desire of the PA to establish a secular Palestinian state. In this context, hatred of Jews has played an increased role: at demonstrations and funerals, both secular and religious Arabs can be observed shouting condemnations of Israel and Jews derived from historical Islamic themes.
Some of the suicide bombers were put through a process of religious indoctrination, through which it was stressed that their act of self-sacrifice was an act of supreme sacrifice in the name of jihad. Would-be attackers were told that they would soon be among the great heroes of Islam, in the company of Salah al-Din, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, and the Prophet Muhammad himself. As shahids - martyrs - their place in paradise would be assured, as would that of their family members.
The indoctrination of would-be attackers is carried out by charismatic clergy, but it would be an exaggeration to characterize this process as brainwashing. Rather, the would-be attacker is brought to an ecstatic state. Prior to embarking on his mission, the would-be attacker is counseled to perform acts of purification, such as shaving off his beard and repaying debts.
However, it is significant that over the last year, indoctrination has become less common. The ongoing confrontation with Israel, with its attendant toll of casualties, severe economic decline, closures, curfews and roadblocks have all intensified despair and frustration - much of which is directed at Israel. This in turn has fuelled the desire to volunteer for and carry out suicide attacks, rendering indoctrination unnecessary. Another strong motive is revenge, whether for the deaths of friends, fellow cadres from the would-be attacker's organization, or relatives at the hands of Israeli forces.
Suicide attackers have become the stuff of legend in Palestinian society. Their photographs are displayed in public, and stories of their heroism are told in mosques and on the street. A strong desire has developed among some youths to follow the example of their predecessors and undertake attacks themselves.
Moreover, the attacks engender great admiration and support within Palestinian society, with recent polls showing support for them at nearly 90%. They are perceived as a legitimate tool, and garner popular respect for their sponsoring organizations.
More-over, for the first time since its establishment, the PA is not taking any steps to foil or impede would-be attackers. Indeed, the opposite appears to be the case - elements within the PA at times even encourage them. The attacks serve, in no small measure, as an outlet for the frustrations and tensions to which the Palestinians are subject in their daily lives.
For all of these reasons, it has become much easier to recruit would-be attackers over the past year, and this likely accounts for the dramatic increase in the number of attacks.
What can be done? How can Israel cope with the suicide threat? Is it possible to deter attackers whose hatred and determination is so great? These are the questions with which both American and Israeli security officials have increasingly had to grapple.
For any counter-terrorism campaign, intelligence information plays an essential role. Would-be suicide attackers do not operate in a vacuum. All of them belong to highly institutionalized terrorist organizations: traditionally either Hamas or the Islamic Jihad; of late, even secular groups like Fatah/Tanzim and the PFLP, as noted above.
These organizations supply an infrastructure that finds, recruits, trains, and arms would-be attackers, and then transports them to the sites where they are to carry out their missions. Efficient intelligence activity can be effective in tracking down activists involved in these efforts, and thereby foiling suicide attacks.
Israel's General Security Service, as well as the defense establishment as a whole, has succeeded in preventing the execution of scores of suicide attacks, especially during the current intifada. These successes have caught attacks in their very final phases, even when would-be attackers were already on their way to carrying out their missions.
Efficient intelligence also makes it possible for Israel to undertake the targeted elimination of commanders, instructors, and the so-called "engineers" - those who build the bombs. Finally, intelligence information is essential for finding and destroying the laboratories in which explosive devices are prepared.
In all, the security services have been highly successful in foiling and preventing attacks, and there can be no doubt that many lives have been saved. This success is particularly impressive considering the difficulty involved in finding intelligence sources from within the ranks of the Islamic organizations. Even so, the number of deaths dwarfs the successes.
Additional actions which must be taken to foil future attacks must focus on tightening security along the border between Israel proper and the West Bank. Security must also be improved at likely sites of attacks - places of leisure, educational facilities, public buses and trains, and even public squares and city markets. While no security measures can prevent all attacks, their potential for a positive contribution is clear.
In this context, it should be noted that terrorist organizations have largely failed in introducing suicide bombers into Israel from the Gaza Strip, in large part because of the fence which surrounds it (indeed, a number of would-be attackers have been stopped while trying to cross the fence).
Clearly, there is an immediate need to establish a similar security barrier along the line separating Israel and the West Bank. Barriers akin to those erected in the valleys of the Gilboa Range and in the Sharon area would prove extremely helpful, and their construction is nothing short of imperative.
Suicide attacks, and their associated cost in casualties, fear, and anxiety for the public are an extremely difficult challenge to State of Israel. None-the-less, it should be borne in mind that suicide attacks, like other forms of terrorism that have been carried out in the past, do not dramatically alter the balance of power between terrorist organizations and Israel.
While painful and extremely difficult to bear, suicide attacks cannot be considered an existential threat to the state, just as it has not represented such a threat to any other state that has had to face them.
This is not to say that suicide terrorism does not have political ramifications for Israel. While not an existential threat, suicide attacks deeply influence Israel's political and decision-making processes, undermine the peace process, and harm both the economy and the quality of life for Israelis in general.