The social networks as a source of inspiration and imitation for terrorists: the case study of two Palestinian youths who carried out a stabbing attack in a supermarket in the commercial area of Sha'ar Benyamin.

Issued on: 28/02/2016 Type: Article

The two young Palestinians who carried out the stabbing attack. Left: Omar al-Rimawi (Facebook page of Omar al-Rimawi, January 6, 2016). Right: Iham Sabah  (Facebook page of Iham Sabah, December 3, 2015).
The two young Palestinians who carried out the stabbing attack. Left: Omar al-Rimawi (Facebook page of Omar al-Rimawi, January 6, 2016). Right: Iham Sabah (Facebook page of Iham Sabah, December 3, 2015).

Overview

1. On February 18, 2016, Two Palestinian adolescents went to a supermarket in the Sha'ar Benyamin commercial area, north of Jerusalem, and stabbed two Israeli customers. An armed civilian shot them. One of the customers, a 21 year-old off-duty IDF soldier, was mortally wounded and later died. Another Israeli customer was critically wounded. The two youths were critically wounded and are in Israeli hospitals (one was mistakenly reported killed in the initial report).

2.  According to the initial investigation, the two walked around inside the supermarket for about 40 minutes before they carried out the attack. The Israeli customers were stabbed in two different sections of the store. A third Palestinian entered the store with the two terrorists and was held back by the security guard at the entrance. He was examined but no weapon was found in his possession.

The scene of the stabbing attack in Sha'ar Benyamin  (Facebook page of Quds, February 18, 2016).
The scene of the stabbing attack in Sha'ar Benyamin (Facebook page of Quds, February 18, 2016).

3.   The two terrorists who carried out the stabbing attack were Iham Sabah and Omar Samir Taha al-Rimawi, both 14 years old, from the village of Bituniya (west of Ramallah). The al-Rimawi family originally came from Bayt Rima (northeast of Ramallah). Iham Sabah was apparently religious and customarily went to the mosque to pray.

Reactions
The Palestinian Authority

4. On February 21, 2016, Sultan Abu al-Einein, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, who is also Mahmoud Abbas' advisor for international organizations, posted a notice on his Facebook page glorifying and praising the action of the two terrorists. He wrote, "Iham [Sabah] and Omar [al-Rimawi], you are our leaders." He praised them saying, chronologically they were 14 years old, but in reality each one was "tens of generations old." Within their chests, he said, "beat the hearts of [brave] men." Those hearts were angry because of the [spilled] blood of Ahmed Manasra (a 13 year-old Palestinian who carried out a stabbing attack in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood of Jerusalem) and Yasmin al-Zarou (al-Tamimi) (a 14 year-old Palestinian girl from Hebron who carried out a stabbing attack at the Cave of the Patriarchs).

5. Sultan Abu al-Einein claimed the knives of Iham Sabah and Omar al-Rimawi had "rattled the chairs in the White House" and caused Secretary of State John Kerry to rush to the region to rescue Israel, America's "spoiled baby." The two Palestinians, claimed al-Einein, had tried to draw the borders of a "state of Palestine" that was "clean of the occupation and settlements." He then praised the high professional level of the stabbing attack in the supermarket. He ended by repeating that the two were worthy of being leaders in every sense of the word. "May your mothers be blessed, who gave you to drink the milk of manliness and love of the homeland. Blessed be the nation to which you belong."

The Facebook page of General Sultan Abu al-Einein praising the two Palestinian terrorists who carried out the stabbing attack in Sha'ar Benyamin (February 21, 2016).
The Facebook page of General Sultan Abu al-Einein praising the two Palestinian terrorists who carried out the stabbing attack in Sha'ar Benyamin (February 21, 2016).

6.   It was not the first time during the current terrorist campaign that Sultan Abu al-Einein unequivocally expressed support for Palestinian terrorists carrying out attacks. For example, on October 4, 2015, on his Facebook page he praised Palestinians who carried out terrorist attacks, calling them "the candles that light the way to the altar of freedom." On November 5, 2015, he expressed support for the terrorist who carried out the vehicular attack in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem (killing a Border Police officer and wounding 13 Israeli civilians and Border Policemen). In both instances, his Facebook postings received "likes" expressing encouragement and support for the shaheeds.

7. The postings of Sultan Abu al-Einein are part of the extensive media and political support Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) give the terrorists who carry out attacks (although Sultan Abu al-Einein is particularly blatant). The support is manifested by public statements and announcements praising the shaheeds, glorifying their image in the media, and the participation of senior PA and Fatah figures at their "national" funerals [i.e., governmental funerals], and by providing their families with support.

 

Hamas

8. Hamas spokesman Husam Badranpraised the two terrorists who carried out the attack. He said attacks of that sort were the "natural response" of the Palestinian people to "Israel's crimes." He called on Palestinian youth to continue carrying out attacks. He said the courage of the "intifada youth" was what would determine the future of the Palestinian people (Hamas website, February 20, 2016).

The death notice issued by the Islamic Students movement, part of Hamas' Islamic Bloc, for the death of the two terrorists who carried out the stabbing attack in the supermarket (Facebook page of Muhammad al-Ajouli, February 19, 2016).
The death notice issued by the Islamic Students movement, part of Hamas' Islamic Bloc, for the death of the two terrorists who carried out the stabbing attack in the supermarket (Facebook page of Muhammad al-Ajouli, February 19, 2016).

The Use of Facebook Pages by the Two Youths

9. Both terrorists had Facebook pages. The Facebook page of Iham Sabah was created in April 2014 but was not particularly active. However, he did occasionally respond to messages posted by Omar al-Rimawi regarding a terrorist attack. The Facebook page of Omar al-Rimawi, which he created in 2012 when he was11 years old, was more active.[1] As of last year he posted notices supporting the shaheeds and expressing the desire to follow in their footsteps. Such posts became more frequent in September 2015, at about the time the current terrorist campaign began.

10. The Facebook pages of the two terrorists, especially that of Omar al-Rimawi, serve as another example of the role played by the social networks in the current terrorist campaign. They provide a platform for the thoughts and emotions of the youths who carry out terrorist attacks and are a source of influence and inspiration for them. Their Facebook pages employ some of the same themes as the pages of terrorists who came before them, the most prominent of which was the "adoption" of the shaheed as a role model.

11. The following themes appear on the Facebook pages of the two, as well as on the pages of other terrorists who carried out attacks in the current terrorist campaign:

1)   The desire to die as shaheeds: The theme is death appears on the Facebook page of Omar al-Rimawi ("We will live like proud hawks...and we will die like proud-standing trees."). A desire for self-sacrifice as shaheeds appeared on the Facebook pages of other terrorists as well.

2)   Facebook friends who reinforce the desire to die: When Omar al-Rimawi wrote he wanted to die as a shaheed he received a great deal of encouragement from his Facebook friends (including Iham Sabah, with whom he carried out the attack). However no "friend" tried to dissuade him from the idea of sacrificing himself. Such responses have appeared on the social networks in the past. They probably indicate that other young Palestinians strongly identify with the shaheeds and want to copy them, whether they are close friends of the terrorists or virtual friends who do not know them.

3)   "Adopting" Palestinian shaheeds as role models: Omar al-Rimawi "adopted" the shaheed Ibrahim Daoud as his role model. Daoud was a 17 year-old from Deir Ghassaneh (near Bituniya) who was wounded in a clash with IDF forces near Ramallah and died (November 26, 2015.) Omar al-Rimawi posted several notices on his Facebook page commemorating him. He also posted a picture of himself wearing a medallion with Daoud's picture. Omar al-Rimawi dedicated one of his posts to Palestinians murdered by Jews (Ali Dawabsha and Muhammad Abu Khdeir). Turning shaheeds into heroes and role models is widespread. Other terrorists also used their Facebook pages to identify with the shaheeds killed in the current terrorist campaign and to express the desire to follow in their footsteps.

4)   The use of Islamic religious terminology: The two terrorists expressed the desire to defend Al-Aqsa mosque and used Islamic religious terminology (Omar al-Rimawi praised the shahadah– death as a martyr for the sake of Allah). The call to defend Al-Aqsa mosque is more conspicuous on Iham Sabah's Facebook page; he was more religious and customarily went to the mosque to pray. While most of the young Palestinians who carried out attacks during the current terrorist campaign did not have religious motivation, some of them often used Islamic religious terminology (including the search for religious or semi-religious legitimacy for their deaths and expressing interest in the rewards shaheeds receive in paradise).

5)   Pictures and mentions of weapons: Omar al-Rimawi posted a picture of a rifle being prepared for firing. Other terrorists who carried out attacks also either posted pictures or mentioned rifles and/or other weapons.

6)   The language used: The language and ideas Omar al-Rimawi and Iham Sabah used on their Facebook pages were sometimes inappropriate for adolescents their age. They apparently quoted and recycled ideas and statements common on the social networks. Other young Palestinian terroristsalso were found to have recycled statements, terms and pictures commonly found on the Internet.

7)   No mention of the PA and the various organizations: The PA, Fatah, Hamas and other organizations were not mentioned by either Omar al-Rimawi or Iham Sabah. That is characteristic of most of the Palestinians who carried out attacks in the current terrorist campaign. It would seem to indicate the spontaneous, popular nature of most of the terrorist attacks, carried out without instructions or organizing from "above." It may also be an indication that the young Palestinians carrying out the attacks are fed up with the Palestinian establishment.

List of Previous ITIC Bulletins and Appendix

1. For the maturing of the idea of carrying out a terrorist attack as reflected on the Facebook pages of Omar al-Rimawi and Iham Sabah, see the Appendix.

2. For the maturing of the idea of carrying out a terrorist attack as reflected on the Facebook pages of other Palestinians who carried out attacks in the current terrorist campaign, see the following previous bulletins:

1)   "The social networks as a source of inspiration and imitation for terrorists: the case study of Nihad Ra'ed Waked, who, with his cousin, carried out a shooting attack targeting IDF soldiers in northern Samaria" (February 18, 2016).

2)   "The Shooting and Stabbing Attack at the Nablus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem Signals an Escalation in the Complexity and Daring of the Palestinian Terrorist Campaign" (February 9, 2016).

3)   "The social networks as a source of inspiration and imitation for terrorists: the case study of Amjad Jaser Sukari, the Palestinian policeman who carried out a shooting attack near Beit El" (February 3, 2016).

4)   "The social networks as a source of inspiration and imitation for terrorists: the case study of Obada Abu Ras, the Palestinian terrorist who carried out the stabbing attack in Givat Ze'ev, Jerusalem" (January 31, 2016).

5)   "The stabbing attack in Beit Horon showed an increase in relative complexity, daring and premeditation" (January 27, 2016).

[1]According to Facebook's age restrictions, a person must be at least 13 years old to sign up for Facebook. Omar al-Rimawi created his in January 2012 when he was 11 years old, meaning he lied about his age.

Additional Bulletins