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Lessons From the Haifa Suicide Attack By: Dr. Walid Phares
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 06, 2003


The restaurant serves Hummos and Falafel, just like many other typical ones in Haifa. But when the Jihadi-Martyr-to-be, Hanadi Tayseer Jaradat, walked towards the entrance, a green line was crossed in the Arab-Israel conflict. While the mujahid who blew herself up thought she would be crossing a border into an eternal life, the line I am thinking of, is rather geo-political.

Indeed, this istishhadi operation (martyrdom according to Islamist ideologies), that left 19 dead and 40 injured on the floor of that restaurant this weekend, is a benchmark in the history of suicidal jihad. At first, one would equate it with the previous attacks conducted by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades against Jewish targets inside Israel. But as you look at the inside logic of the operation, you see beyond the classical equation. The qualitative change - even though causing horror - is significant. It has to do with the technique.   

Usually the istishadee (suicide bombers in Western language) arrives at the premise of the location and throws himself (or herself) onto the target. The technique used until the latest Haifa attack was one-dimensional: one trigger, one step, and one result attached to it. The martyrs-to-be were trained to infiltrate, camouflage themselves and surprise the enemy abruptly. The philosophy behind this classical technique draws from an Islamist ideology: If you can't fight a superior enemy, take him with you in a martyrdom operation.

Such doctrine was powerful enough to recruit among the psychologically weaker elements in the society. Basically, you didn't have to fight through your enemy; all you had to do was to trigger a mechanism; no stress, no thinking and no questioning. But in this Haifa operation, a new type of istish had emerged. Maybe not for the first time, but at least publicized as such. The attack against the restaurant was two dimensional. The perpetrator was wired to explode as a human bomb, but she was also armed to fight her way onto the target. Is that a significant difference? Maybe not with regard the victims. They died anyway. But in the war against suicide bombers, it was a leap to a higher level.

The suicide-bomber approached the entrance as she knew it was guarded by an armed security element. In classical cases, she would have chosen to blow herself up at the first contact with the infidel enemy, taking with her the security element, and as much as she can from the target. But this time, the jihadi bomber engaged the first defense perimeter, i.e, the security guard, eliminated him, then burst into the restaurant and triggered her mini-doomsday device.

Two missions, two stages and two results. This is very telling. Future suicide bombers won't be only trained to dismantle their bodies as a "warhead," but to make sure their living beings are a perfect "delivery system."  

In classical suicide attacks, human "warheads" were sent onto the enemy regardless of the precision bombing. In other words, they have certainly targeted a location, but counted on the holy blast to damage as many people as possible.

In the Haifa attack, a new weapon has been used: Human Precision Bombs. These suicide-jihadi are not only bombers but also fighters as well. Hence, we have now the Jihad Fighter-Bombers. They will fight their way into their targeted locations. This is a direct application of al-Qaeda's tactics. The September 11th module showed us 19 men killing pilots, stewards, and obstructing passengers as a first stage in the operation. Then the big one came after. Obviously, in Israel's case, the cultural surprise effect is not there. Israelis know and expect the bombers to show up everywhere, or at least, they are supposed to.

But Israelis in Haifa, and possibly international societies later, will have to widen their scope of thinking, now that a woman (and possibly later men) has shown the world what is to come. The new wave of "precision bombers" is here. They have the tremendous advantage of selecting their target and their timing. One cannot deploy security guards neither endlessly nor boundlessly. And that is what the jihadi's new tactic was able to figure out.  

The master planners behind the Haifa operation have experimented; their suicide woman died. Yes the "fighter-bomber" worked. A security guard was killed and men and women died. The designers of the attack have drawn lessons from past experiences both within the Palestinian areas and from across the norther border in Lebanon. The signature is clear: it is a cumulation of techniques inherited from the combined war experience of Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Palestinian Jihadists The so-called "weapon of the weak" has been upgraded further. It has become a smart weapon of precision.

                                                  ******

Walid Phares is a Professor of Middle East Studies and an MSNBC Terrorism analyst. His previous submission to Frontpage Magazine was Iraq's Killing Fields.


Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released book Future Jihad. He is also a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC.


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