Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Willing to Die: Palestinian suicide bombers

At the Foundation

Between 1994 and 2003 there have been approximately 120 major terrorists attacks aimed at Israel. Suicide bombers executed 61 of the attacks, all of whom belonged to radical Palestinian Islamic terrorist organizations. Consequently, more than 436 Israelis were murdered and thousands more have been badly wounded.

Map of Israeli territory
Map of Israeli territory

The attacks were prompted by years of intensified political conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis over the territorial and governorship rights to land, which included the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and parts of Israel. For decades, the Palestinians have been fighting to create an independent state in the Israeli occupied territory for millions of refugees who were rejected by other Middle Eastern countries. After   unsuccessful attempts to find a solution to the problem, Palestinian extremists took up arms and joined ranks with radical Islamic militants that have used terror tactics, especially suicide bombings to achieve political goals.  

According to Nachman Tal in Suicide Attacks: Israel and Islamic   Terrorism,   the first recorded use of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israel was on April 1993, when a Palestinian man drove to an Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley in a car packed with explosives and blew himself up, killing one Israeli and injuring seven more. The attack was followed by several more, which occurred after the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israelis later that September.

Bombing Israel pizza parlor
Bombing Israel pizza parlor
 

During that time, the radical militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad carried out a majority of the attacks because they opposed the agreement struck between their rival, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Authority (PLO) and Israels then Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. The use of suicide terrorist attacks by Palestinian extremists would be a reoccurring theme in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Rabin, Clinton and Arafat
Rabin, Clinton and Arafat
 

According to Tal, there has been a growing religious dimension in the recent waves of attacks. Palestinian extremist organizations have mixed Islam and politics. They believe that it is their religious duty to defend their people and traditions against the enemies of Islam, most of whom are considered to be Israelis. Murder to obtain a political objective goes against the fundamental teachings of the Koran.

According to a Jewish Virtual Library article, Potential Threats to Israel: Palestinian Terrorist   Groups,   extremist organizations share several common beliefs:             

  • Violence is acceptable to achieve their political goals.
  • Rejection of Jewish sovereignty on any land in Israel.
  • Islamic form of government should be imposed in the Middle East.
  • No distinction between military and civilian targets.

Palestinian militant organizations have been growing in number and size over the last few years, mostly attributed to a martyr campaign that promotes self-sacrifice for the sake of God and nation. The use of martyrdom to achieve political/religious goals has become widely accepted and even facilitated by a large portion of Palestinian society. Conversely, the international view outside the Islamic world is that suicide terrorism is outrageous and barbaric and will only decrease the chances of Palestinians ever obtaining an independent state.

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