JERUSALEM: A PREFERRED TARGET FOR PALESTINIAN TERRORISM IN THE LAST
by Dr. Reuven Erlich (Colonel, Ret.)
The terrorist attack at Café Hillel in Jerusalem, which
killed seven Israeli civilians and wounded more than 70, September 9,
2003. Places of entertainment have often been preferred targets for
suicide bombing attacks (Photo: Filisteen al-Muslima, October 2003
Jerusalem, the capital city of the State of Israel, has a mixed
population of Jews and Arabs. The city is surrounded by a large
Palestinian population located mostly in two urban centers, Bethlehem
and Ramallah. The Palestinians maintain a close relationship with the
Jerusalem's inhabitants, Arabs and Jews.
- Since the current violent Palestinian-Israeli confrontation
broke out in September 2000, Jerusalem has been a preferred target for
Palestinian terrorist attacks. During the five years between September
2000 and October 2005, there have been 635 attacks in Jerusalem, 30 of
which were suicide bombing attacks, killing 211 (about 20% of Israeli
casualties since September 2000) and wounding 1,643. Most of the 211
killed in terrorist activities in Jerusalem died as victims of suicide
bombing attacks (82%), which made up 5% of all the terrorist actions.
- The terrorist organizations have focused on Jerusalem more than
any other Israeli city for two main reasons:
- Its symbolic importance as the capital of the State of
Israel: for the terrorist organizations, carrying out an attack in the
heart of the Israeli capital is likely to make more of an impression
and have more media weight than an attack carried out elsewhere.
- The relative ease with which the terrorist organizations can
infiltrate operatives into Jerusalem: It is close to Palestinian
populated areas and as a mixed city, it is easier for
terrorist-operatives to fade into the local population.
- This Special Bulletin includes the following:
- Types of terrorist attacks carried out in Jerusalem
- The deaths caused by various types of attacks
- Suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem
- Involvement of East Jerusalem Arabs in terrorist attacks
- Focusing terrorist attacks on the Jerusalem region since the construction of the security fence
- List of the suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem
- List of the car bomb attacks in Jerusalem
The types of terrorist attacks carried out in Jerusalem
Most of the attacks in Jerusalem during the past five years have been
shooting attacks (288 incidents) and Molotov cocktails (220
incidents). However, more notable was the high number of suicide
bombing attacks (30), the highest of any Israeli city (the latest of
which was in September 2004). It should be noted that the high number
of stabbings (31 incidents) is also peculiar to Jerusalem. However,
most of the casualties were caused by suicide bombing attacks.
The following chart shows the types of attacks carried
out in Jerusalem:
The deaths caused by various types of attacks
- The above graph makes it clear that the overwhelming majority
of deaths (174 Israelis) were caused by the 30 suicide bombing
attacks. Twenty-one civilians were shot to death and nine were
Suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem
- Most of the suicide bombing attacks were carried out against
civilian targets. Their aim was to kill indiscriminately as many
innocent victims as possible. They achieved their aim in that 174
innocent Israelis were killed in 30 suicide bombing attacks; that is,
about 5% of all the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem led to 82% of the
Most of the suicide bombing attacks (17) were
carried out in 2002. It should be noted that during
2005 there were no such attacks in Jerusalem, although
there were attempts which were foiled.
Types of targets
- The civilian targets of most of the suicide bombing attacks:
- Urban and inter-urban buses and bus stops were the preferred targets. The most prominent attacks were on the number 2 bus (23 killed, most of them returning from praying at the Western Wall), on the bus in the Gilo neighborhood (19 killed during rush hour) and on the number 14 bus (17 killed).
- Places of entertainment, including restaurants, shopping malls, cafés and clubs: The deadliest attack was at the Sbarro pizzeria (19 killed).
- Populated areas and crowded locations such as markets, pedestrian malls, main streets: Among those carried out in populated areas, the deadliest was at the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall (11 killed).
Suicide bombing attacks according to the distribution of
- An examination of the attacks shows that the various factions of Fatah (Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades) and Hamas carried out most of the attacks. Each of the two organizations was responsible for 13 attacks (33.8%). Lagging behind is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) (three attacks); one attack was carried out by a non-affiliated terrorist.
- It should be noted that the distribution of suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem is slightly different from the overall distribution of the rest of the country. So far (October 2005) overall Hamas has carried out 57 such attacks, or 40% of the total; the PIJ has carried out 38, or 25% of the total. Fatah (Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades) 33 attacks, or 23% of the total, but in Jerusalem its attacks, as noted above, equal those of Hamas.
Distribution of suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem according
After the suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem's Zion Square: 11
killed, more than 170 wounded (Photo courtesy of Reinhard Kraus,
Involvement of East Jerusalem Arabs in terrorist attacks
- Since the beginning of the current violent confrontation (September
2000), Arabs who live in East Jerusalem (and carry Israeli ID cards)
have been conspicuously involved in terrorist attacks in Israel,
particularly in Jerusalem. As a result of their participation, 186
Israelis have been killed and 1,171 wounded. The number of dead is
about 20% of all Israelis killed by terrorist activities since
September 2000 (of a total of 1,069 killed to date, about 70% of them
- Most of the terrorist attacks in which East Jerusalem Arabs were
involved were initiated by Hamas infrastructures in Hebron and
Ramallah, and those of Fatah/Tanzim in Bethlehem. In recent years
residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis were also
involved. One possible reason may be the Abu Dis College (a branch of
Al-Quds University ), a source of unrest and a meeting place for Arabs
living in Jerusalem and Palestinians from the Palestinian Authority
- East Jerusalem Arabs are involved in the following ways:
- Exploiting their familiarity with the city to collect information and choose potential targets.
- Exploiting their Israeli identity cards to infiltrate
terrorists and/or weapons to the terrorist attack targets.
- Direct involvement in the attack.
- Palestinians from the PA-administered territories, particularly
Samaria, living in the Jerusalem area also aided in carrying out
attacks within the green line even though they do not carry documents
enabling them to move freely within Israeli territory. However, they
are familiar with the area and have close personal, family and social
ties with Arabs living in Jerusalem.
- One example is the suicide bombing attack attempt at
Café Caffit in the German Colony. The attempted attack,
directed by the Hamas infrastructure in Hebron, apparently failed
because of a technical problem with the detonator. Arab residents of
East Jerusalem, having been recruited by Palestinians living in the
area, were involved in preparing the attack, helped collect
information, pointed out potential targets and drove the suicide
bomber to the café.
Focusing terrorist attacks on the Jerusalem region since the
construction of the security fence
- The purpose of the security fence is first and foremost to complicate
and frustrate the attempts of terrorist-operatives to infiltrate
Israeli territory. The first section was completed in July 2003, 130
kilometers (about 81 miles ) through Samaria from Elkana to Salem.
Concurrently, two other sections were completed north and south of
Jerusalem. The second section of 60 kilometers (about 37 miles ),
running for Salem to the Jordanian border (south of Kibbutz Tirat
Tzvi), is about two-thirds finished. Final construction is expected to
be completed in the near future.
An illustration of the security fence (from the Israeli Ministry of
Defense's Internet site)
The security fence as it is completed in Samaria makes it difficult for the terrorist infrastructures in the area to infiltrate their operatives into Israel. They therefore try to get around it by using a variety of methods: taking routes through areas where the fence has not yet been built and using the gates built into the fence for the passage of agricultural workers and vehicles.
As long as parts of the security fence have not been completed,
Jerusalem is even more attractive as a target for terrorist attacks:
compared with Judea and Samaria it is still relatively wide open
because the fence does not encircle the city. The Palestinian
terrorist organizations regard the area around Jerusalem as an
Achilles' heel, a literal "hole in the wall," which will enable them
to infiltrate terrorist-operatives and weapons by avoiding Israel's
network of roadblocks.
The attempts to move terrorist-operative logistic bases from Judea and Samaria to Jerusalem has increased the terrorist organizations' need for support from local residents.
- A number of examples of suicide bombing attacks follow (some
of them carried out and some of them foiled) in which Jerusalem was
either the preferred target or a route from the West Bank to Israel:
An attack foiled in the Ramot neighborhood: At the end of May 2005,
PIJ operatives from Judea handled by the organization's infrastructure
in Tulkarm and Jenin attempted to carry out an attack in the Ramot
neighborhood. It was to have taken place on a bus or in a café
or synagogue. Two suicide bombers arrived in Beit Hanina (about midway
between Ramallah and Jerusalem ) from Samaria. Local operatives made a
number of attempts to infiltrate them into the city but failed.
Bags carrying explosives found in the possession of the
would-be suicide bombers near Beit Hanina and detonated by security
force engineers (Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesman)
On September 22, 2004 a suicide bombing attack was carried out in the
French Hill neighborhood by a female terrorist who blew herself up
when the border guards examined her. In the attack two border guards
were killed and 17 wounded. Responsible for the attack was the
Fatah/Tanzim cell in Nablus, which had infiltrated the suicide bomber
through Jerusalem and brought her to the French Hill.
An attempt to turn the suicide bomber into a role model: her
head lying on the ground near French Hill crossroads on September 22,
2004. The caption under the original pictur reads "the perpetrator of
the suicide bombing attack, Zaynab Abu Salem. Her head was severed
from her pure body and her headscarf remained to decorate [her face].
Your place is in heaven in the upper skies, oh, Zaynab... sister
[raised to the status of heroic] men (Al 'Fateh, No. 38, Hamas's
children's online magazine...)
An attack foiled in Afula: On September 22, 2004, a suicide bombing
attack in Afula was foiled when a large explosive device was
discovered in the region of Deir Hana in the Galilee. It had been
intended for use in a joint attack carried out by Fatah/Tanzim and PIJ
operatives from the Jenin district. The device was hidden in a sack of
flour and transported into Israel by a Palestinian living in Israel.
He and his family were brought to Israel by various Palestinian
drivers who changed cars and drove on dirt roads and took detours.
They went from the village of Yamoun (west of Jenin) through Tulkarm
to Jerusalem and from there to the village of Mughar (in the eastern
An explosive device detonated at a border guard roadblock: On August 11, 2004, fifteen kilograms ( 33 lbs ) of explosives were detonated at the Qalandia roadblock north of Jerusalem, killing six border police and two civilians. Two Palestinians were also killed and six were wounded. After the attacks, operatives from Jenin were detained. Under interrogation they revealed that their plan had been to infiltrate a suicide bomber for an attack in Haifa, but there were instructions that he was to attack any city in Israel if he could not reach the target. The terrorist came by taxi from the village of Arabeh in the Jenin district. In a second taxi driving behind them there was an explosive device hidden under a crate of vegetables. The two vehicles drove in tandem towards Tulkarm and from there to Ramallah until they reached A-Ram, to the northeast of Jerusalem. In A-Ram the operatives bought a baby carriage to hide the device in until they reached Haifa. When the operatives realized they would not be able to reach there original target, they detonated the device at a Border Guard roadblock.
An attack foiled at Café Filter: On August 2, 2004, a suicide
bombing attack at a café failed when a Fatah/Tanzim operative was
arrested. He had planned to carry out the attack at Café Filter, where
he worked as a cook. The Palestinian terrorist, 20, single, living in
the Bethlehem district, had, as a resident of East Jerusalem, an
Israeli ID card. He had been recruited for the suicide bombing attack
six months earlier and finally decided to commit it because of
psychological pressure caused by suspicions that he had collaborated
with Israel. Later, when he saw the explosive belt, he changed his
mind and decided not to carry out the attack.
List of the suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem since the beginning of
the current violent confrontation (as of November 6, 2005)
1. March 27, 2001: an explosive device was detonated by a suicide bomber next to a bus at the French Hill intersection. Twenty-one civilians wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
2. August 9, 2001: a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Sbarro pizzeria. Fifteen killed and 110 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
3. December 1, 2001: two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Zion Square, and a few minutes later a car bomb exploded. Ten killed and 154 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
4. December 4, 2001: a suicide bomber blew himself up on Hanevi'im street. Thirteen wounded. The organization responsible: the PIJ.
5. December 5, 2001: a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the (former) Hilton Hotel in the Mamila neighborhood. Five wounded. The organization responsible: the PIJ.
6. January 27, 2002: a female suicide bomber blew herself up on Jaffa street. One killed and 127 wounded.
7. February 6, 2002: a suicide bomber about to blow himself up on a bus from Jerusalem to Ma'aleh Adumim was captured. There were no casualties. The organization responsible: Hamas.
8. February 18, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car laden with explosives at a roadblock on the Ma'aleh Adumim road. One policeman killed and two wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah.
9. February 27, 2002: a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a roadblock. Three border guards wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Tanzim.
10. March 2, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of Israeli civilians on Haim Ozer street. Eleven killed and 46 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
11. March 7, 2002: a suicide bomber attempted to detonate the explosives he had on his person at Café Caffit. There were no casualties. The organization responsible: Hamas.
12. March 9, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to
Café Moment. Eleven killed and 58 wounded. The organization
13. March 17, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus on the French Hill. Twenty-five wounded. The organization responsible: the PIJ.
14. March 21, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up on King George street. Three killed and 71 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
15. March 29, 2002: a female suicide bomber blew herself up at the entrance to a supermarket in the Kiriyat Yovel neighborhood. Two killed and 22 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Tanzim.
16. April 1, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up during a routine police check of suspicious vehicles. One policeman killed. The organization responsible: Fatah/Tanzim.
17. April 12, 2002: a female suicide bomber blew herself up at the entrance to the Mahane Yehuda market. Six killed and 66 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Tanzim.
18. June 18, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus on Dov Yosef street. Nineteen killed and 38 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
19. June 19, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up at a bus stop at the French Hill intersection. Seven killed and 39 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Tanzim.
20. July 30, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up at a falafel (a popular Israeli fast food) stand on Hanevi'im street in the city center. Five wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
21. November 21, 2002: a suicide bomber blew himself up on a number 20 bus on Mexico street. Eleven killed and 51 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
22. December 28, 2002: a car bomb carrying a suicide bomber exploded at the Russian Compound. There were no casualties. The suicide bomber was unaffiliated.
23. May 18, 2003: a suicide bomber blew himself up at the A-Ram roadblock. There were no casualties. The organization responsible: Hamas.
24. May 18, 2003: a suicide bomber blew himself up on a number 6 bus on the French Hill. Seven killed and 20 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
26. June 11, 2003: a suicide bomber disguised as an ultra-orthodox Jew blew himself up on a number 14 bus. Seventeen killed and 104 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
26. August 19, 2003: a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus on Shmuel Hanavi street in the Beit Israel neighborhood. Twenty-three killed and 116 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
27. September 9, 2003: a suicide bomber blew himself up at the
entrance to Café Hillel on Emek Refaim street. Seven killed and
70 wounded. The organization responsible: Hamas.
28. January 29, 2004: a suicide bomber blew himself up on the number 19 bus on Gaza Street. Eleven killed and 43 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
29. February 22, 2004: a suicide bomber blew himself up on a number 14 bus near the Liberty Bell Park. Eight killed and 59 wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades
30. September 22, 2004: a female suicide bomber blew herself up at the French Hill intersection. Two border guards killed and 14 Israelis wounded. The organization responsible: Fatah.
A total of 30 suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem killing 174 Israelis.
List of the car bomb attacks in Jerusalem since the beginning of
the current violent confrontation (as of November 6, 2005)
1. November 2, 2000: a car bomb exploded on Shomron street. Two killed and 11 wounded.
2. February 8, 2001: a car bomb exploded on Beit Israeli street in Mea Shearim. Ten wounded.
3. March 21, 2001: a car bomb was discovered and dismantled in the orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. There were no casualties.
4. March 27, 2001: a car bomb exploded in the Talpiot industrial zone. Eleven wounded.
5. May 26, 2001: a car bomb exploded on Zmora street close to the Russian Compound. Six wounded.
6. May 27, 2001: a car bomb exploded at the corner of Jaffa and Cheshin streets. Twenty-one wounded.
7. July 29, 2001: a car bomb exploded in the underground parking lot of an apartment complex on Moshe Dayan boulevard in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood. Three wounded.
8. August 21, 2001: a car bomb exploded at the corner of Horcanus and Heleni Hamalka streets close to the Russian Compound. There were no casualties.
9. September 3, 2001: an explosive device in the trunk of a commercial vehicle belonging to the Jerusalem municipality exploded on Plotzki street. Six wounded.
10. October 1, 2001: a car bomb exploded on Bethlehem street. Three wounded.
11. December 3, 2001: a car bomb exploded on Haganah street in the commercial center of the French Hill. Four wounded.
A total of 11 car bomb attacks (one in 2000 and ten in 2001) in Jerusalem, killing 2 Israelis.
1. Based on an Israel Security Agency (ISA) report with additions from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies.
2. According to data supplied by the ISA as of November 7, 2005.
3. For further information see our Special Bulletin" Palestinian
Islamic Jihad suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem foiled,
Dr. Reuven Erlich (Colonel, Ret.) is director of the Intelligence and
Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)
in Israel. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published by the Intelligence and Terrorism
Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S) November