Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Willing to Die: Palestinian suicide bombers

Palestinian Resistance Movements

Five main groups --Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- have carried out the deadliest terrorist attacks since the early 1990s. Although ideology may differ among the groups, they share the same goal -- ending Israeli occupation in and around the area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and establishing an independent Palestinian state. A primary objective is recruiting men and women to engage in suicide attacks against the Israeli military and settlers in the region.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
 

Hamas is one of the largest and deadliest of the resistance movements, made up of tens of thousands of followers. The militant organization began in 1987 following the first Palestinian intifada (wave of violence). Sheik Ahmed Ismael Yassin, assassinated by Israelis on Monday, March 22, 2004, was the called the spiritual leader of the group, despite his lack of clerical training. Yassin greatly opposed Israeli occupation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. According to the U.S. State Department, a majority of Hamas attacks have been large-scale homicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets. Between September 2000 and May 2003, they have been responsible for 227 killings.

Hamas money comes from Islamic charities and donations from around the world. Kathy Westcott wrote in Who are Hamas   that the group is extremely popular in Palestine. On March 17, 2004, Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin had revealed that the premier Palestinian Islamic resistance group is preparing a plan for the administration of the Gaza Strip following the proposed Israeli withdrawal from the small territory. Yassin despite his fiery rhetoric was seen as the moderate face of the Palestinian Islamists. 

Hamas militants during rally
Hamas militants during rally
 

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has been widely considered to be the most extreme of all the Palestinian organizations and it is considerably smaller than Hamas. Palestinian students based in Egypt initially founded the PIJ in the early 1980s. They believed in waging a holy war against Israel and her citizens in an effort to preserve the Palestinian state and Islamic morals and values.

Masked Islamic Jihad militants
Masked Islamic Jihad militants
 

Even though the group is small, it is quite deadly. Between October 2000 and January 2004, PIJ was responsible for killing approximately 70 people and wounding hundreds more. The State Department claims that the groups operational activities have increased since 2002, posing an even greater threat against Israeli interests. The group recruits suicide bombers who target Israeli soldiers and civilians alike.

Another deadly militant group is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  The Marxist-Leninist organization was initially founded in the late 1960s. George Habash led the group for 32 years until he retired in 2000. PFLP used various tactics, including suicide attacks to further its primary objective of expelling Israeli citizens from in and around the Gaza Strip and West Bank in order to establish a democratic socialistic Palestinian state. The PFLP was responsible for a number of attacks.

PFLP militants hide their faces
PFLP militants hide their faces
 

The Palestinian National Liberation Movement or Fatah (literally meaning Islamic holy war) was a movement initially founded in the 1960s by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Fatah began carrying out terrorist raids against Israeli targets in 1965 and continued to do so to the present time. The group engaged in numerous terrorist attacks, many of which have been with homicide bombers. The group has often been linked with another terrorist organization known as Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade.

Yasser Arafat, headshot
Yasser Arafat, headshot

November 2001 saw the emergence of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade. Between November 2001 and January 2004, the group claimed the lives of more than 100 Israelis and wounded hundreds more in the West Bank and Gaza. They have emerged as on of the countrys most deadly militant organization.

Al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade militant
Al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade militant

The group is believed to be a branch of Yasser Arafats Fatah organization. However, according to a BBC article, Profile: Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the organization is neither officially recognized nor openly backed by Mr. Arafat and Fatah, though brigade members tend also to belong to Fatah, the Palestinian leaders political faction. Although Arafat has not officially backed the organization, he is believed to be a supporter.

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