Today marks the 14th anniversary of the first suicide-bombing attack perpetrated by Hamas against Israel, an event that opened a horrific new chapter in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On April 16, 1993, Sahar Tamum Nablusi, 22, became the first Hamas suicide bomber. With a copy of the Koran on the front passenger seat, Sahar drove his bomb-laden Mitsubishi van rigged with cooking-gas canisters into two buses at a roadside café of the Mehola Junction in the Jordan Valley. This attack is also known as the “Bet-El bombing” (literally, the House of God bombing).
Nablusi killed himself and murdered a Palestinian laborer Maruan. Five people were initially reported injured, though some news reports placed the total number of wounded at eight. Tragically, it is more difficult to find out the names of the murdered and injured than that of the murderer. (One is reminded of the notoriety acquired by a serial killer, in contrast to his nameless victims.)
When I first read about the attack, in the still-hopeful days before the Oslo Accords, I knew that it augured a tragic future. Having watched Lebanon from the sidelines since the early 1980s, when Hezbollah launched its first suicide attacks (also in April), I realized that Israel had to brace itself for more attacks to come.
And, indeed, the horrendous example set by Nablusi has found countless imitators. Many have even acted in the month of April. On April 11, 2002, for instance, Nawar Nizar, a 24-year-old al-Qaeda operative from the French city of Lyon, perished while exploding a fuel tanker outside the Ghriba synagogue in the resort island of Djerba in Tunisia.
Why does April seem to coincide with an increase in suicide attacks? April is the traditional time of spring, a time of rebirth and renewal, with holidays like Pesach and Easter. For the Islamic suicide bomber, however, life holds no meaning. Joy is unknown to them, and those capable of feeling it must be attacked and destroyed. To these joyless automatons, we become a threat, a constant reminder of what they lack.
In today's world, Hamas’s inaugural attack speaks to the shallowness of Palestinian democracy, a democracy in which the people choose cold-blooded terrorists to represent them. Hamas has perpetrated the most heinous crimes against the Palestinians. Hamas sends Palestinian children, and sometimes even their mothers, to their deaths. It is Hamas that has given the world a phenomenon heretofore unknown in history: the post-menopausal grandmother suicide bomber.
On this April 16th, let us recall a seemingly minor suicide bombing that introduced the civilized world to the evils of suicide terrorism. It was a watershed moment, a psychological equivalent to 9/11 for humankind. It was with that attack that Hamas demonstrated the depths to which it will sink in its perversity.
In remembering that day, let us also bear in mind what Hamas seeks to destroy: civil society; democracy; and the right of citizens to live without terror. And let us never forget the thousands of victims killed or wounded by a terrorist’s final act. On this day and always, we must carry these innocents in our hearts.
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