Yahya Ayyash, the Hamas bombmaker known as “The Engineer,” was disappointed that the previous attack he orchestrated, the Hadera central station suicide bombing, had killed only six Israelis. The bomb used in that attack had been small and made of acetone peroxide, a relatively weak explosive. For the attack on bus five running down Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, Ayyash constructed a bomb using an Egyptian land mine packed with twenty kilograms of military-strength TNT, surrounded by nails and screws.
Qalqilya resident Saleh Abdel Rahim al-Souwi was selected for the attack. Al-Souwi joined Hamas after his older brother Hasin was killed in 1989 in a shootout with Israeli forces. Al-Souwi was wanted by the Israeli Shabak, but was not considered a high priority.
The day before the attack, al-Souwi taped a statement saying, “It is good to die as a martyr for Allah” and “Sages end up in paradise.”
Muatab Mukadi, a member of Ayyash’s Samaria battalion (of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades), drove al-Souwi to one of the bus’s first stops. al-Souwi chose an aisle seat on the left side of the bus, and placed the bomb (stored in a brown bag) at his feet.
At approximately 9:00 AM on October 19, 1994, as the bus was slowing down for a stop 100 meters north of Dizengoff Square, al-Souwi detonated the bomb, killing 21 Israelis and one Dutch national. The powerful explosion lifted the bus off its chassis and the heat melted the fiberglass bus frame.
At the time of the attack, it was the deadliest in Israeli history.
The day after the bombing al-Souwi’s family threw a neighborhood party celebrating his “martyrdom.”
On January 5, 1996, Ayyash was assassinated when the Shin Bet remotely detonated a bomb that had been hidden in his cell phone.
Photo: Public Domain.