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Palestinian Istishhadia: A Developing Instrument

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2007 Pages: 667-689
Yoram Schweitzer
Date Published
August 2007
23 pages
This paper profiles and analyzes the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign.
In order to focus more accurately on the roots of Palestinian suicide terrorism; to indicate the direction of its development; and to examine its circumstances, aims, and achievements, this analysis divides Palestinian suicide bombings into two phases: April 1993 to March 2000 and October 2000 to October 2006. Thirty-eight suicide bombings were conducted in the first period, and 151 were conducted in the second period. These attacks involved more than 189 bombers, because in some attacks there was more than 1 perpetrator. In addition, approximately 200 suicide bombers (Istishhadis) were apprehended on their way to an attack target or while engaged in preparations for the attack. At the beginning of the first period, the pattern of Istishhadia consisted of trial and error. In the second period, however, the terrorists relied on the precedents of previous successful suicide bombings. Also, the extent of technical knowledge disseminated by veteran terrorists in preparing demolition charges increased significantly. The number of organizations involved in dispatching Istishhadis also increased, as did the number of people involved in terrorist attacks. The number of volunteers increased mainly for emotional reasons: hate, anger, despair, and hopelessness among widening circles of the Palestinian people. The first organization to use suicide bombings was Hamas. Hamas paved the way and was the most dominant and effective of all the organizations that adopted Istishhadia. Following the second period of attacks, a temporary suspension of the suicide campaign was announced by Palestinian organizations that had backed it. Some of the factors that contributed to this were Israel's disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, along with the massive Israeli countermeasures against Istishhadia. Israel's reports of continued successes in intercepting and defusing Istishhadia attempts are a reminder that the threat has not ended. 6 figures and 64 notes


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