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19
The Phenomenon of Suicide Bombings in Israel: Lessons Learned

Detective Mordecai Z. Dzikansky, New York Police Department (NYPD) Intelligence Division, Overseas Liaison to the Israel National Police (Stationed in Israel 2003-2007), Currently Retired NYPD First Grade Detective


While terror is not new to the State of Israel, from September 2000 to 2006 a relentless terrorist campaign called the second intifada or the Al-Aqsa intifada was waged against Israel. During this period there was a surge of terrorism with new means of attack and severity previously unknown in Israel.

The focus of this report is suicide bombings within Israel, excluding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Although these attacks represent less than 1 percent of terrorist attacks against the State of Israel, they have resulted in 50 percent and 55 percent of terror-related fatalities and injuries, respectively. Other types of attacks include rockets, shootings, stabbings, and so forth.

Since 2000, 136 suicide bombings were carried out in Israel resulting in 516 fatalities and scores of injuries (see Figure 19-1).

As depicted in the above graph, the number of casualties resulting from suicide bombings has been on a steady decline since 2002. However, this mode of attack remains the most lethal. Additionally, despite the drop in attacks, there has been significant escalation on the ground of threat levels and the number of attempts to dispatch suicide bombers. According to Israeli security services, nearly 200 suicide attacks were thwarted over the past year and more than 300 explosive devices were detonated pre-attack.



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19 The Phenomenon of Suicide Bombings in Israel: Lessons Learned Detective Mordecai Z. Dzikansky, New York Police Department (NYPD) Intelligence Division, Overseas Liaison to the Israel National Police (Stationed in Israel 200-200), Currently Retired NYPD First Grade Detective While terror is not new to the State of Israel, from September 2000 to 2006 a relentless terrorist campaign called the second intifada or the Al-Aqsa intifada was waged against Israel. During this period there was a surge of terrorism with new means of attack and severity previously unknown in Israel. The focus of this report is suicide bombings within Israel, excluding the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Although these attacks represent less than 1 percent of terrorist attacks against the State of Israel, they have resulted in 50 percent and 55 percent of terror-related fatalities and injuries, respectively. Other types of attacks include rockets, shootings, stabbings, and so forth. Since 2000, 136 suicide bombings were carried out in Israel resulting in 516 fatalities and scores of injuries (see Figure 19-1). As depicted in the above graph, the number of casualties resulting from suicide bombings has been on a steady decline since 2002. However, this mode of attack remains the most lethal. Additionally, despite the drop in attacks, there has been significant escalation on the ground of threat levels and the number of attempts to dispatch suicide bombers. According to Israeli security services, nearly 200 suicide attacks were thwarted over the past year and more than 300 explosive devices were detonated pre-attack. 1

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10 COUNTERING TERRORISM 250 200 150 100 50 0 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 4 35 62 18 10 5 2 Attacks 0 83 213 138 50 21 11 Fatalities FIGURE 19-1 Casualties from suicide bombings in Israel, 2000-2006. Fig 19-1.eps WHY SUICIDE BOMBERS? Suicide attacks are nondiscriminatory with targets, including the old, the young, the wealthy, and the poor. These attacks impact all sectors of the civilian population and have been carried out in various types of crowded public venues, including transit stations, buses, restaurants, shopping malls, nightclubs, and outdoor markets. This method of attack is adaptable, can maximize casualties, is inexpensive, and is far reaching by instilling fear in the general public. There are several factors that contribute to the effectiveness of this mode of attack: • Adaptability: The bombers, who act like a human missile, can adjust their target, location, and timing of detonating their charge based on specific cir- cumstances. Unlike a nonhuman or timed explosive, they can evaluate security, casualty potential, and positioning at their target site and modify their location and timing accordingly. There have been numerous occasions in Israel where suicide bombers either changed their target or aborted a pending attack because of circumstances at the initial site. Examples include the following: o Jerusalem, September 9, 2003: A suicide bomber attempted to enter a pizzeria (Pizza Meter) but was rebuffed by the security guard posted at the entrance, so instead the bomber entered the café (Café Hillel) next door. The

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11 THE PHENOMENON OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL guard at the entrance to the café tried to prevent the bomber from entering, but the bomber had managed to get several meters inside. Seven people were killed (including the security guard) and more than 50 were wounded. o Jerusalem, July 19, 2004: The Caffit restaurant was the target of a failed attack when a would-be suicide bomber decided against carrying out his plan at the last minute because of tight security. The device that was left in the vicinity of the restaurant was recovered by the Israel National Police (INP). o Jerusalem, March 2002: A waiter at the same restaurant (Caffit) no- ticed wires protruding from a man’s backpack, cut the cable, and then tackled the would-be suicide bomber to the ground. o Jerusalem, August 11, 2004: Three Palestinian bystanders were killed and six Israeli police officers were injured at the Qalandiya Checkpoint when an unattended object was detonated by remote control. The device was in- tended for use at a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, but the checkpoint became the modified target when the transporter deemed it impossible to pass with the device because of heavy security at the scene. o Netanya, July 12, 2005: The bomber exploded his improvised explo- sive device (IED) approximately 30 meters away from a mall entrance, in the crosswalk. The theory is that the bomber was in the midst of a crowd in the crosswalk adjacent to the mall. Since he noticed a strong presence of security guards stationed at the mall entrance, the bomber doubled back and detonated his device in the crosswalk instead of at the mall. Note that bombers tend to strike in areas that are familiar to them or to their handlers and will at times risk travel to that specific target (for example, attacking a target near a restaurant where the bomber was formerly employed). Terrorists may also return to the same target location if their initial attack was unsuccessful or resulted in low casualties. Examples include the following attacks: o Netanya, Hasharon Shopping Mall, July 12, 2005: The first attempt resulted in two deaths. A second attempt on December 5, 2005, resulted in five deaths. In the second incident, because of security in front of the mall, the bomber detonated his explosive in the crosswalk. o Tel Aviv, Rosh Ha’ir Restaurant, January 19, 2006: An explosive malfunctioned, killing only the bomber. A second attempt on April 17, 2006, resulted in 11 deaths. o Tel Aviv Dolphinarium Night Club, June 1, 2001: Five months before the bombing, there was a failed attack attempted at the same location. • Cost versus capabilities: Suicide bombings in a closed environment are a preferred modus operandi by terrorist groups, as only a small explosive charge is necessary to cause maximum casualties and damage. These devices

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12 COUNTERING TERRORISM are inexpensive, unsophisticated (triacetone triperoxide, or TATP), and can be prepared with easily purchased ingredients. To maximize casualties, fragmenta- tion has been used in most of the bombings. It is the fragmentation (for example, nails, bolts, screws, and so forth) as opposed to the explosion itself that raises the number of fatalities and serious injuries. Note that devices with fragmentation are easier to detect than those without: o If worn, the bulkiness of the additional weight makes camouflage more difficult and more noticeable. o The fragmentation can be picked up by metal detectors. • Instills fear in the general public: Buses during rush hour, restaurants during peak dining or social hours, markets at their busiest―all these targets are selected and timed to affect the masses. During the peak period of attacks, certain changes in the behavior of segments of the population were initially noted. People avoided dining out despite an enforced law that restaurants of certain size must have security guards posted at their entrance; parents drove children to school instead of sending them on public city buses; people altered their schedules to avoid being in crowds. However, once the suicide attack became “routine” and the decline in the number of attacks began, the population appeared to return to their regular patterns. People have exhibited a strong resilience to terror attacks and seem to function better by returning to their normal routines as quickly as possible after an attack. As an example, within just 3 to 4 hours after a blast on a city bus, the bus is removed from the scene and people are seen lining up at the location waiting for the next bus. WHO IS THE BOMBER? ANYONE While there used to be a typical profile for the suicide bomber in Israel, the scenario changed during the second intifada. Before 2001 the suicide terrorist was typically identified as a Palestinian male, 18-28 years old, unmarried, and religious. Now there are no rules. Bombers no longer fall into a gender or age range; they include the religious and secular, professionals and laypeople, locals and foreign visitors. Examples include the following: • Haifa, October 4, 2003: Twenty-one people were killed at a restaurant, including 4 children, and 60 were wounded in a suicide bombing carried out by a female terrorist in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. Islamic Jihad claimed respon- sibility for the attack. The bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer from Jenin, blew herself up in the middle of the restaurant after completing her meal. Jaradat was the intifada’s sixth female suicide bomber and the second one to do so for Islamic Jihad. Like Hamas, Islamic Jihad originally raised both religious and social objections to female bombers. The other four female bombers came from

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1 THE PHENOMENON OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL the ranks of the secular Fatah militias, Islamic organizations that have clearly overcome their religious and social objections to using women―and children. • Hawara Checkpoint, March 24, 2004: A 14-year-old Palestinian boy, Hussam Abdu, wearing an explosive belt was intercepted at the roadblock, south of Nablus. Sappers (combat engineers) used a remote-controlled robot to pass scissors to the boy so that he could cut the explosive belt off his body and then safely detonated it in a controlled explosion. Abdu, from Nablus, said that he received 100 Israeli shekels (about 22 U.S. dollars at that time) to carry out a suicide attack. A Tanzim cell from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus claimed responsibility for sending the boy. • Jerusalem, August 19, 2003: A Palestinian suicide bomber of Hamas’ Hebron cell, apparently disguised as a Hassidic Jew, detonated himself on a no. 2 Egged bus in Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood. The double-length bus was crowded with Orthodox Jewish families coming back from the Western Wall. The huge explosion caused lethal damage, killing 7 children and 16 adult civilians and wounding more than 130 people. The bomb was spiked with ball bearings designed to increase injuries on the crowded bus. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the attacker as a 29-year-old mosque preacher from Hebron. • Tel Aviv, April 30, 2003: A suicide terrorist blew himself up at the entrance to Mike’s Place, a pub-café on the Tel Aviv promenade. Three civilians were murdered and more than 50 were wounded in the attack, which was perpe- trated by 22-year-old British citizen Asif Muhammad Hanif. A second British citizen, Omar Khan Sharif, 27, married, a resident of Derby, who was also due to have perpetrated a suicide attack, fled the scene. Khan Sharif attempted to detonate the bomb in his possession, but the bomb failed to explode. He fled the scene after discarding the bomb. SUSPICIOUS SIGNS AND BEHAVIOR While the actions of the suicide bomber are not humane, human bombers cannot always mask or control their naturally human traits or reactions pre-at- tack. It is these human behaviors that can alert security personnel and the public to pending trouble. Profiling based on nationality or race may not be acceptable; profiling based on objective criteria or suspicious behavior or both is essential to thwarting terror attacks. The human suspect may be recognized by external indicators, by unusual behavior, and by specific actions. Basic external indicators include the following: • Inappropriate clothing for the season, place, time, or circumstance • Holding a bag (various forms) that is incompatible with the surroundings • Protrusions in the clothing

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1 COUNTERING TERRORISM • Visible wires or tape • Concealment of the hands • Attempted adaptation to fit into the environment, but unnatural appearance—obvious or awkward attempts to blend into a crowd (dyed hair, clothes just not right) Behavioral indicators include the following: • Excessive nervousness • Repeated and nervous handling of parts of clothes • Profuse sweating • Involuntary motions • Apathy or gazing • Slow-paced walking while focusing on sides, or determined walk • Stuttering, mumbling (as if in prayer), hesitation in speaking or unresponsiveness The following actions are also indicators: • Attempting to stay away from security personnel • Waiting in one specific point or observing a particular area • Moving in search of a safe place suspiciously • Two or more people communicating with each other while trying not to be noticed While any of these suspicious actions warrant a search, the bottom line is that if trained security feels uncomfortable with an individual, appropriate action must be taken. It has been seen on numerous occasions that thorough checks, whether visual or by metal detectors, have been successful in identifying suicide bombers before they enter the target location. The following list includes several bombings in which casualties were lessened because of good security: • Kfar Saba Train Station, April 24, 2003: A guard prevented a bomber from entering the station. • Mike’s Place, Tel Aviv, April 30, 2003: A guard prevented a bomber from entering the pub. • Jerusalem Checkpoint, May 18, 2003: INP Border Police deterred an attack on a two-tiered bus. • Ha’amakim Mall, Afula, May 19, 2003: A guard prevented a bomber from entering the mall. • Hillel Café, Jerusalem, September 9, 2003: A guard prevented a bomber from entering the café.

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1 THE PHENOMENON OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL • Jerusalem Bus Stop, September 22, 2004: INP at booths securing the site prevented a bomber from entering the bus. When checks are not performed properly (such as at the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa in January 2004, when the guard did not use his metal detector), the consequences are deadly. CAMOUFLAGE Most IEDs used in Israeli suicide bombings have been in the form of a sui- cide belt or vest (with the devices attached midway to the bomber’s chest) or bags (backpacks, duffels, gym bags). Recent camouflage has also included a guitar and undergarments. The bomber is typically disguised or dressed to blend in with the specific targeted environment. Following are examples from several attacks in Israel where different camouflage methods were used: • Bus Bombings: In 2003 and 2004 there were eight suicide bombing attacks on public city buses. Six of the IEDs were worn in suicide belts and two were carried in bags. The bombers dressed to blend in. For example, on a bus filled with students, the bomber carried the device in a backpack; on a bus traveling through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, the bomber dressed in Hassidic garb. • Gush Katif Junction, January 18, 2005: The IED charge was planted on the terrorist’s body and held tightly against his legs from the waist down. The charge was held in place by means of black elastic sleeves that were concealed underneath his pants. • Stage Nightclub, Tel Aviv, February 25, 2005: The bomber concealed an explosive-laden vest worn under an imitation leather coat. He carried the IED on his front and exploded his charge with his back to the entrance of the nightclub to maximize casualties. • Maxim Restaurant, Haifa, January 4, 2004: The female bomber did not raise suspicion during her entire presence at the restaurant. She concealed an explosive-laden vest made from white cloth under her clothes. The opening was at the back. The vest had eight pockets arranged around the waist area that held the explosives. The bomber sat as one of the diners, ate her meal, then rose from the table and activated the vest. ISRAEL’S DEFENSE: LESSONS LEARNED Israel’s vast experience in dealing with terrorism has led the country to a pro- active position in developing systems to combat the terror. Their proven methods are both physical and psychological, and they involve the general public as well as trained security professionals. Israel has enacted security laws and built fences,

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1 COUNTERING TERRORISM roadblocks, and very strong intelligence capabilities. It is these methods that have led to the decline in the execution of suicide bombings. Preventive Measures Private security companies are responsible for securing buses, trains, and their respective stations. The INP is responsible for setting the training doctrine, overseeing its implementation, hiring the trainers, and performing background checks of private security personnel. Israel has a tremendous benefit in that most of the guards have served in the military and are willing to work at affordable rates. Every city’s central bus station and train station has mandatory security whereby all persons entering the facilities are physically checked via metal de- tector and all bags and packages are required to be opened and visually checked by trained security officers. High-profile stations (for example, the Jerusalem bus station) are supplemented with X-ray machines that scan every package or bag. All public schools are required to have secure physical barriers with an armed guard stationed at the entrance to the school. Trained security guards are required to be posted at shopping mall entrances, restaurants (of certain size), hotels, and most other public venues. The presence of security guards and being screened is the norm. It is both expected and accepted that your bags and person will be screened upon entering almost any venue, from the supermarket to a movie theater. Israel has an engaged community that is taught from a young age to be alert to suspicious objects and behavior. Security is included in the school curriculum and reminders are commonly posted in public locations. In addition to security guards, high-profile locations are constructed with security considerations in mind. Factors include but are not limited to parking garage size, building materials, physical barriers in front of all entrances, and so forth. The Security Fence1 The security fence, which is intended to prevent the infiltration of terror- ists into Israel, is a key element of Israel’s defense against terrorism. Until the construction of the security fence between Israel and areas of the Palestinian Authority, terrorists had almost unhindered entry into Israel because the area had no borders or natural obstacles. According to statistics provided by the Israeli security services, since the August 2003 completion of the first section of the security fence and buffer zone, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of suicide bombings. The security fence, the buffer zone, and even sections of the fence not yet completed limit the ability of terrorist organizations to enter Israel and present operational

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1 THE PHENOMENON OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL obstacles, especially for those organizations active in northern Samaria, making it difficult for them to carry out suicide bombing attacks within Israel. In 2006, terrorists did not cross the fence. Most of the terrorists who infil- trated to carry out suicide bombing attacks did so in areas where the fence is not complete. (During 2006, abductions and rocket fire replaced suicide bombing terrorism as the prevailing method of attack against Israel.) As described by Israel’s Ministry of Defense, the security fence is a multi- layered composite obstacle comprising several elements: • A ditch and a pyramid-shaped stack of six coils of barbed wire on the eastern side of the structure, with barbed wire only on the western side • A path allowing Israel Defense Force (IDF) personnel to patrol on both sides of the structure • An intrusion-detection fence in the center, with sensors to warn of any incursion • A smoothed strip of sand running parallel to the fence, to detect footprints • A solid barrier system: This particular design is used in a minority of cases—a total of 8 kilometers in the initial stages of the project (4 percent of the total length). Its main purpose is to prevent sniper fire into Israel and on major highways and roads. In this case a solid concrete wall resembling a highway sound barrier often used in the United States and Europe is erected. This design is used mainly along the new Trans-Israel Highway, in Bat Hefer and Matan, and in densely populated urban areas such as Jerusalem. Once the whole project is completed, the portion of the concrete sections will be 6 percent, approximately 30 kilometers. • Various observation systems installed along the fence alerting authorities to attempted intrusions before they can be carried out • IDF and Border Police units deployed along the security fence under the command of the IDF Security Services The decline in the number of suicide bombing attacks is the result of many factors, the foremost being the successful counterterrorist activities of the Israeli security forces. Three agencies play a crucial role in thwarting these attacks in Israel: the Israel Security Agency (ISA), the IDF, and the INP. The agencies real- ized that to be successful against the terrorists, they would need to work together to develop strong communication and share information on a real-time basis. Israel Security Agency: The ISA’s role in counterterrorism is to gather and analyze intelligence on terrorist organizations in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza and monitor their activities. They identify terrorist cell members, location

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1 COUNTERING TERRORISM of terrorists, financing, and information on planned attacks. The ISA shares its intelligence with the IDF and INP for appropriate response. Israel Defense Force: In addition to being responsible for monitoring the security fence, the army’s role is to act on intelligence that it gathers and receives. It seeks out and destroys terrorist cells and their respective infrastructures (for example, bomb-making factories) in the West Bank and Gaza. The IDF is the front line in preventing suicide bombers from entering Israel. Israel National Police: The INP is responsible for preventing terrorist at- tacks and apprehending any terrorist who has infiltrated into the country. They react to real-time intelligence and aggressively respond to handle the situation as quickly and professionally as possible. They carry out the following activities: • Deploying police resources to search aggressively for the bomber or device and alert private security companies in the targeted region • Setting up strategic auto checkpoints • Securing or blocking off a suspected area, including closing down high- ways and blocking city entrances and exits • Alerting the public to the situation If a suicide bombing attack does occur, the INP is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the entire operation at the scene (emergency medical services, fire, ZAKA [voluntary emergency response teams], city services, the media, and so forth). This includes securing the area, sweeping for secondary devices, evacu- ating the injured, conducting forensics operations, and searching for a possible facilitator who may have dropped the bomber off at the location. CONCLUSION In the beginning of the second intifada, urban terrorism by means of suicide bombings was the preferred method of attack by terrorist groups. These attacks, which affected the masses and maximized casualties, were relatively inexpensive to execute, and getting to the target location was within reach. Israel’s reaction to suicide bombings, the resilience of its citizens, and the country’s ensuing security developments show the phenomenal capability of an urban environment succeed- ing against this type of terror. The country has an engaged population—most of its private security guards have served in the IDF, and its citizens are alert and accepting of delays and checks. Security and identification of suspicious objects and behavior is taught from a very young age. Society has exhibited its ability and need to carry on after an attack. Israel has fortified its public venues with added security measures, both structurally and with additional manpower. The addition of the security fence has made it increasingly difficult for terrorists to infiltrate into the country. Excellent

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1 THE PHENOMENON OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL intelligence and coordination among security services has greatly contributed to fighting the threat and thwarting hundreds of pending attacks. As for suicide bombings, Israel has learned to fight back. Now, on to defending itself from rocket attacks…. NOTE 1. Israel Ministry of Defense, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israel’s Security Fence 2003- 2007. Information available online at www.securityfence.mod.gov.il/Pages/ENG/default.htm.