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Trends in Palestinian Terrorism: 2003 Terrorism Review


In 2003, 3,838 terrorist attacks were perpetrated against Israeli targets, in which 213 Israelis (50 members of the security forces and 163 civilians) were murdered. In 2002, 5,301 terrorist attacks were perpetrated against Israeli targets, in which 451 Israeli soldiers and civilians were murdered. Thus, there was an approximately 30% drop in the number of attacks and a drop of over 50% in the number of fatalities over the previous year.

However, it must be pointed out that the drop in the number of attacks stems - inter alia - from the intensive counter-terrorist actions of the IDF, Israel Police and ISA, as a result of which many attacks were foiled. Thus, for example, there was an average of 40 warnings per day.

Following is a representative sample of prominent counter-terrorist actions that were carried out in 2003:

December - A ramified infrastructure of Hamas terrorists who perpetrated shooting and bomb attacks in the Ramallah and Binyamin areas in recent years, in the course of which 10 soldiers and 12 civilians were murdered and many more were wounded, was uncovered. The cell members planned to kidnap and decapitate soldiers for bargaining purposes.

December - Munir Ravia, who was on his way to perpetrate an Islamic Jihad suicide attack at a school in Yokneam, was arrested.

December - A terrorist and the person transporting him were arrested en route to perpetrate a Tanzim suicide attack in Rosh Ha'ayin. The two approached Kafr Kassem but turned back due to the deployment of Israeli security forces in the area.

November - Balal Basha, who was due to lead a terrorist to perpetrate an Islamic Jihad suicide attack in Israel, was arrested. Tzavarin Abu Amara, who was due to perpetrate the attack, and Manal Sabana, who liased between the suicide terrorist and Islamic Jihad operatives in Nablus, were arrested along with him.

June - Two terrorists, who were en route to perpetrating a Tanzim suicide attack in the Petah Tikva market, were arrested in Kafr Kassem. They had a powerful bomb, which was later detonated in a controlled explosion.

June - Two terrorists were killed near Bhaqa al-Garbiyeh. The two were on their way to perpetrate a suicide attack in Haifa and carried two explosives-laden suitcases.

February - Two Hamas-affiliated cells in Bethlehem were uncovered. They had planned a long series of attacks, including an attempt on the life of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The two cells had perpetrated the November 21, 2002 suicide bombing in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Menahem in which 11 civilians were murdered.


1. Special points

In 2003, the terrorist organizations used innovative methods in perpetrating attacks. These include:

Attacks against American targets - On October 15, 2003, a bomb was detonated against a US Embassy convoy in the Gaza Strip, in which three American security guards were murdered and one was wounded. This was the first terrorist attack against a US target since 1967. The attack remains unsolved.

Recruiting foreign nationals to perpetrate attacks - In November, Jamal Akel, a Palestinian with a Canadian passport was arrested. He had been recruited by Hamas to perpetrate an attack on a senior Israeli VIP in North America or on members of the North American Jewish community.

Intention to assassinate the Prime Minister - In June, Samar Atrash and Omar Sharif, residents of eastern Jerusalem and leaders of the May 18, 2003 and June 11, 2003 attacks on the #6 and #14 buses in Jerusalem, respectively, were arrested. They admitted to being directed by Hamas to collect information on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and senior VIPs, apparently in order to attempt abductions and/or assassinations.

Use of booby-trapped tunnels - In December, a 500-kilogram explosive charge that had been hidden in a tunnel beneath an IDF outpost on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt near Rafiah, was detonated. The outpost was damaged in the blast. Several more explosive charges were detonated, and shots were fired, as the soldiers were evacuated from the outpost.

Perpetrating two attacks on the same day - On September 9, 2003, at 17:45, a Hamas suicide-terrorist blew up at a hitchhiking stop near the IDF Tzrifin base, murdering nine soldiers and civilians and wounding 14 others. At 23:30, a suicide-terrorist blew up at a cafe in Jerusalem. Murdering seven people and wounding 70 others.

Using animals in terrorist attacks - In January, Hamas used a booby-trapped donkey to perpetrate an attack in the Bethlehem area. One civilian was injured.

Using ambulances for terrorism - In May, Amar Khalouan, and his handler Zahour Hamdan, were arrested en route to perpetrate a suicide attack in Petah Tikva. Khalouan admitted that the two had passed through roadblocks in an ambulance.

2. Main centers of terrorism

In 2003, the terrorist infrastructures in Judea and Samaria were behind the majority of the suicide attacks that were perpetrated in Israel, and were responsible for the murders of over 60% of all victims from terror attacks this year. Cells from the Gaza Strip perpetrated approximately 70% of the total number of attacks and were intensively engaged in producing and upgrading war materiel.

It should be pointed out that the construction of widespread sections of the security fence have made it difficult for the terrorist infrastructures based in Samaria to smuggle terrorists into Israel. The terrorist organizations are tactically adjusting to the new situation and are transferring the dispatch points for terrorists to Judea, and are attempting to infiltrate terrorists into Israel from those areas in Samaria not yet covered by the security fence. To these ends, they are collecting information on weak points. Jenin Islamic Jihad leader Imjad Abidi admitted during questioning that if the security fence reached to the Jordan Valley, terrorists from all of the organizations would need to think of completely different ways to perpetrate attacks. Due to the progress in constructing the security fence, Hamas's Samaria infrastructure has not succeeded in perpetrating a suicide attack inside Israel since the October 10, 2002 suicide bombing at Bar Ilan junction on the Geha highway in which an elderly woman was murdered.

3. Inter-organizational and inter-regional cooperation

In 2003, there was continued inter-organizational and inter-regional cooperation among the various terrorist organizations. Among the most prominent were: The transfer of operational know-how and war materiel among infrastructures and the perpetrating of joint attacks. Several of the major attacks were the result of inter-organizational cooperation.

The October 24, 2003 infiltration of the IDF post at Netzarim, in which three soldiers were murdered and two were wounded, was a joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad attack.

The June 8, 2003 infiltration of Erez checkpoint in which four soldiers were murdered and four were wounded, was a joint Hamas-Fatah-Islamic Jihad attack.

4. Involvement of international elements in directing attacks on Israeli territory

In 2003, the leaderships of various terrorist organizations abroad continued to be involved in terrorism on Israeli territory.

The involvement of foreign terrorists was characterized as follows: Outlining policy guidelines vis-a-vis attacks and transferring directives to perpetrate attacks; the transfer of funds; the transfer of war materiel and know-how; and the recruitment of leaderships abroad in order to promote the rehabilitation of the organizations' infrastructures.

Among the cases uncovered was: In August, Hamas cells were uncovered in Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the context of which Israeli Arab students who were studying at Jordanian universities were recruited into Hamas. The students were located and recruited during the Umra pilgrimage to Mecca.

5. Directing terrorism from inside prisons

Israeli prisons continued to serve as centers for the initiation and direction of terrorist attacks beyond the prison walls. The actions of prisoners included: directing attacks from inside prison, locating and recruiting members, liaison between terrorists in the field, operational coordination and cooperation, liaison with terrorists abroad and the transfer of operational know-how to terrorist infrastructures in the field.

In May, a Hamas cell from northern Jerusalem, whose members carried blue Israeli identity cards, was uncovered; it had planned to abduct soldiers. Cell members planned to abduct soldiers in order to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners. The cell's activities were directed by Hamas prisoners in Ashkelon Prison via letters passed on by the prisoners' relatives.

6. Use of special populations

The continuing difficulty of terrorist infrastructures in Judea and Samaria, especially the latter, in perpetrating attacks inside the Green Line have obliged them to seek the assistance of populations that enjoy freedom of movement in Israel. In order to assure the success of attacks deep inside Israel, Palestinian terrorist organizations are increasingly seeking the aid of special populations:

Use of Israeli Arabs in terrorism

In 2003, Israeli Arabs continued to serve as an auxiliary arm for the terrorist infrastructures, especially those in Samaria, regarding the perpetration of attacks inside the Green Line. In practice, Israeli Arabs assisted in the perpetration of four suicide attacks inside the Green Line in which 45 Israelis were murdered (approximately 90% of all those who were murdered in terrorist attacks originating in Samaria). In 2003, 26 Israeli Arab terror cells - with a total of 43 members - were uncovered. The involvement of Israeli Arabs in terrorist attacks included: transporting terrorists, gathering intelligence on targets, and transporting war materiel and raw materials for the manufacture of explosives. It must be emphasized that the assistance of a few Israeli Arabs in transporting Palestinians staying in Israel illegally for terrorist purposes, claimed a heavy toll.

In March, the first explosives laboratory inside Israel was uncovered. Israeli Arabs led by Muhammad Masri, a resident of Jaljuliya, operated the laboratory. Cell members planned to perpetrate a car bombing in Israel.

Also in March, three Israeli Arabs from Kafr Manda - Mahmoud Abdel Khalim, Ibrahim Abdel Khamid, and Muhammad Abdel Khamid - were arrested on suspicion of planning to perpetrate hostile actions in northern Israel at the behest of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

Jamal Mahajaneh, an Israeli Arab from Umm al-Fahm, admitted to transporting Hanadi Jarada, who perpetrated the October 4, 2003 suicide bombing at Maxim's restaurant in Haifa, in which 21 Israelis were murdered and 60 were wounded.

Use of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem in terrorism

Arabs from eastern Jerusalem continue to be a significant factor vis-a-vis the perpetration of large-scale attacks inside Israel, especially in Jerusalem, mainly at the behest of terrorist infrastructures in Judea. Hamas has been prominent in recruiting and operating Arabs from eastern Jerusalem, who took part in five suicide attacks inside Israel, in which 64 Israelis were murdered. Arabs from eastern Jerusalem have been involved in the full range of operational aspects regarding the perpetrating of attacks: perpetrating attacks, gathering information, receiving and dispatching terrorists and locating and recruiting members.

In September, three Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem, who had perpetrated the August 19, 2003 suicide bombing of a #2 bus in Jerusalem in which 23 Israelis were murdered and approximately 120 were wounded, at the behest of Hamas, were arrested.

Use of foreign nationals and those holding foreign documents in terrorism

In 2003, as in previous years, the terrorist organizations made sinister use of foreign elements, and civilians holding foreign documentation, in order to perpetrate terror attacks against Israeli targets, both in Israel and abroad.

On April 30, 2003, Hamas perpetrated the suicide attack at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv, in which three people were murdered and over 60 were wounded. The attack was perpetrated by Asif Hanif, 22, with the help of Omar Khan Sharif, 27, both British citizens. This was the first terror attack that was perpetrated by terrorists with foreign passports.

On November 1, 2003, Jamal Akal, 23, originally from Nuseirat, and a Canadian citizen, was arrested by the ISA. Akal had arrived in the Gaza Strip, ostensibly on a family visit. During his time in the Gaza Strip, he was trained by Hamas to attempt the assassination of a senior Israeli VIP in the US and of US and Canadian Jewish community leaders. This was the first instance in which Hamas sought to perpetrate an attack on Jewish and Israeli targets abroad.

Involvement of women and children in terrorism

During 2003, Palestinian terrorist infrastructures continued to use women, both as suicide terrorists and as assistants, in order to perpetrate attacks inside Israel. The widespread use of women stems from the familiar assumption that women arouse less suspicion at checkpoints and that searches of women are lighter. 2003 marked Islamic Jihad's first use of women as suicide terrorists. Such attacks included the October 4, 2003 suicide bombing at Maxim's restaurant in Haifa, in which 21 Israelis were murdered and 60 were wounded and the May 19, 2003 suicide bombing at the Amakim Mall in Afula, in which three people were murdered and over 40 were wounded

In 2003, security forces arrested 22 Palestinian women for involvement in terrorism - 12 potential terrorists and 10 assistants.

The terrorist organizations continue to recruit innocent-looking minors for terrorism purposes. In March, security forces arrested Kotzai Salameh, 17, from Jeba, an 11th grade student. Salameh had failed to carry out an attempted suicide attack, for which he had been recruited by his older brother.

7. War materiel

In 2003, terrorist elements were again prominent in seeking to upgrade their organizations' capabilities. The Gaza Strip continued to feature prominently as a center for Palestinian war materiel production. Such activities included: smuggling a vast range of war materiel from Israeli territory into the Palestinian Authority areas, independently developing and producing war materiel and passing along technical know-how. In 2003, the terrorist organizations also continued to use chemicals purchased on the civilian market for terrorism purposes. The terrorist organizations continued their efforts to improve and upgrade the Kassam rockets. In 2003, more than 40 tunnels used for smuggling war materiel into the Gaza Strip, were discovered (see and

8. Iran and Hezbollah vis-a-vis the Palestinians

Since August, there has been a significant increase in Hizballah's involvement in Tanzim terrorist activity. In practice, Hezbollah has taken control of Tanzim activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Similarly, Iranian and Hezbollah elements have continued to exploit their links with the terrorist organizations' leaderships in order to both initiate and support terrorist activity. Iranian and Hezbollah elements have closely monitored the organizations' conduct vis-a-vis reining in terrorism in order to wreck moves which could likely lead to the putting down of the current wave of Palestinian violence.

In October, a senior Tanzim terrorist from Jeba, Faras Khaliliya was arrested. Khaliliya admitted that he was in telephone contact with a Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist. Khaliliya disclosed that he had received instructions to perpetrate terror attacks in Judea and Samaria and along the Green Line and had also received financial aid from a Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist.

9. Iran and Hezbollah vis-a-vis Israeli Arabs

Iran continues to view Israeli Arabs as a strategic target to undermine Israel's internal stability. Efforts to increase activity to solidify an operational and intelligence infrastructure and to make connections with central and influential organizations in the Arab sector have been noticeable this year. The purpose of such activities is to use them to undermine the state.

In December, two brothers from Ghajar, Muhammad Shamali, 22, and Ahmad Shamali, 24, were arrested for providing assistance to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon - including passing information, receiving orders to purchase technical literature - and smuggling drugs into Israel.

10. Involvement of Palestinian security services in terror:

The Palestinian Authority security services, which are supposed to work to fight and thwart terror, have been conspicuous in their support for such activities.

On November 18, 2003, Gavar Ahres, a Palestinian policeman, perpetrated a shooting attack at the Tunnel Road checkpoint south of Jerusalem, murdering two Israeli soldiers. He is currently being detained by the Palestinian security services for his part in the attack.

In December, Manir Raviyah, a Palestinian security operative from Ramallah and a member of the Islamic Jihad, and Marwad Abu Zitun, were arrested in the Bardale village mosque. The two were armed with an explosive belt and were on their way to perpetrate a terror attack inside Israel.

While there was a significant drop in the number of terror attacks in 2003, it must be remembered that many horrific and devastating attacks were prevented while in the final stages of preparation by the arrests of terrorists who were already on their way to perpetrate the attacks.

Sources: Israel Security Agency