The body of one of the victims being removed from the scene of the attack
(Gil Cohen Magen for Reuters, January 29)
The suicide bombing attack
1. On January 29 at 9:40 a.m. a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a bakery in the Isidore neighborhood of Eilat. The blast killed three civilians, two of them owners of the bakery and one an employee. There were no wounded, although a number of civilians went into shock. The body of the suicide bomber was found on the scene. An examination of the remains of the explosive device showed it was a satchel containing a 100 mm shell which the terrorist had detonated.
2. According to members of the suicide bomber’s family, he left the Gaza Strip on January 26. He apparently crossed into the Sinai peninsula, stayed in the region for a few days and then infiltrated into Israel north of Eilat during the night of January 28. In the early morning hours of January 29 he hitched a ride with an Israeli civilian. The civilian distrusted him and soon ordered him to get out of the car. The suicide bomber continued to Eilat on foot and randomly chose the bakery where he blew himself up.
Claiming responsibility for the attack
3. A PIJ spokesman held a press conference in the Gaza Strip. He said his organization claimed responsibility for the attack and that it had been carried out in cooperation with Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades elements (a faction calling itself �the army of the faithful�). The spokesman said that the suicide bomber was Muhammad Feisal al-Siqsiq , an operative belonging to the Jerusalem Battalions (the PIJ’s terrorist-operative wing), 21 years old and from the village of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip (Al-Jazeera TV, January 29).
Muhammad Feisal al-Siqsiq
4. Additional issues in the PIJ spokesman’s announcement:
A. As far as the organization is concerned, the ceasefire with Israel does not exist. The spokesman said that his organization intended to carry out other news-worthy attacks including terrorists coming from the West Bank .
B. A message was sent to the organizations fighting each other (Hamas and Fatah) to stop their internal struggle and turn their weapons only against �the Israeli enemy.�
C. The false claim was made that the suicide bomber had not been dispatched from the Gaza Strip but had infiltrated into Eilat from Jordan , the result of seven months of preparations.
A PIJ poster which appeared on its Website. The upper inscription reads: �Paltoday [communications] network joyfully accompanies the groom to his wedding, the hero who carried out the suicide bombing, 1 son of the Jerusalem Battalions, who carried out the heroic act in Eilat, Muhammad Feisal al-Siqsiq, on his way to the black-eyed virgins waiting for him in paradise.� 2
Reactions to the attack
5. Reactions from the internal Palestinian arena :
A. Abu Mazen , Palestinian Authority chairman, condemned the attack in Eilat. At the airport in Cairo he told the press that the PA condemned all attacks against civilians (Palestinian News Agency, January 29). His political consultant and a Fatah spokesman also condemned attacks against civilians.
B. The Hamas movement , especially spokesmen for its terrorist-operative wing, praised the suicide bombing attack, calling it �punishment� for the �Zionist occupation.� Hamas’s media gave wide coverage to the attack. However, Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas government spokesman, refused to comment.
C. Spokesmen for Fatah’s terrorist-operative wing expressed support for the attack. A senior member of the Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in the West Bank, nicknamed Abu Qusay, extolled the attack and called upon all the Palestinian terrorist organizations to aim their weapons at Israel ( Ma’an News Agency , January 29). Zakaria Zbeidi, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades commander in Jenin, praised the �heroic action� in Eilat and expressed the hope that it would help stop the civil war in the Gaza Strip (BBC Radio, January 29).
D. Spokesmen for the PIJ and its media stressed the fact that the attack was meant to send a message to all the [Palestinian terrorist] organizations to stop fighting each other, to aim their weapons at Israel and to put the jihad and �resistance� (i.e., terrorist attacks) at the top of the Palestinian people’s agenda. PIJ senior operative Khaled al-Batash said that as far as his organization was concerned, �all the Palestinian territories are occupied, whether [it is a question of] Eilat, Jaffa , Haifa or Ashqelon �� (Radio Sawa, January 29).
6. The Palestinian media interviewed the suicide bomber’s family many times. His mother claimed she knew in advance about her son’s intention to carry out a suicide bombing attack but did not know where or when it would be. She admitted that he had been dispatched on Friday, January 26, and his uncles denied that he had gone to Jordan , contradicting the lie told by the PIJ spokesman. As is usual after suicide bombing attacks, the terrorist’s mother and wife claimed they were proud he had died as a martyr for the sake of Allah ( Ma’an News Agency , January 29).
The suicide bomber’s mother with pictures of her son
(paltoday Website, January 30)
7. In the international arena the attack was severely condemned by the White House Spokesman, the President of the European Union, the British Foreign Secretary and others. The White House Spokesman placed responsibility for the attack squarely on the shoulders of the PA and said that the PA’s �failure� to act against terrorism was undermining the Palestinian people’s aspirations for a state of their own. The President of the European Union called upon the Palestinian leadership to do its utmost to put an end to terrorism. The British Foreign Secretary expressed worry that the attack might lead to additional escalation in the region.
8. Some reactions in the Arab-Muslim world were the following:
A. Egypt (from which the terrorist infiltrated into Israel ): Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit condemned the attack. He called upon both sides to act with restraint and to avoid taking actions which might complicate the situation and cause measures to fail which were intended to reach a just and permanent solution for the Palestinian- Israeli conflict (Middle East News Agency, January 29).
B. Jordan (from which the PIJ claimed the terrorist had infiltrated into Israel ): King Abdallah issued an announcement condemning the attack. He said that that sort of action only increased Palestinian distress and was intended to prevent the sides from returning to the mediating table. A government spokesman was quick to make it clear that the PIJ’s claim was a lie and that the terrorist did not infiltrate Israel from Jordan .
C. Iran (which supports the PIJ): Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, expressed understanding and implied support for the suicide bombing attack. He blamed Israel for not having honored the ceasefire and therefore, he said, the suicide bombing attack was expected because the Palestinian people would not sit idly by in face of Israel ‘s �crimes� (Radio Tehran, January 29).
9. Since 2005 the PIJ is the organization which has carried out the greatest number of suicide bombing attacks (until 2005 it was Hamas). The PIJ is encouraged and supported by Iran and Syria , and through the direction of its leadership in Damascus , it seeks to escalate the violence in the PA-administered territories and to sabotage every ceasefire attempt (as it previously sabotaged �the lull in the fighting�). During 2005 (the period of the �lull�) the PIJ carried out five lethal suicide bombing attacks in Israel and in 2006 two more, killing a total of 32 Israelis and wounding approximately 270.
10. From the outset the PIJ did not accept the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip which was agreed upon on November 25, 2005, between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Abu Mazen. Since then the organization has sabotaged the ceasefire both with rocket fire from the Gaza Strip (where it is clearly the most active organization in that respect) and by carrying out other sorts of terrorist attacks such as the suicide bombing attack in Eilat. Hamas has openly expressed its support for and identification with the PIJ’s terrorist activities. The Palestinian security forces, loyal to Abu Mazen and fighting a war of survival with Hamas, do not attempt to take any effective action to put an end to the PIJ’s terrorist activities.
11. This was the first time since the inception of the current terrorism campaign that Eilat has been chosen as a target for a suicide bombing (although it would seem that the bakery where the attack took place was chosen randomly). In our assessment two main factors were responsible for Eilat’s being the target: first , the difficulties encountered by the terrorist infrastructures in Samaria, the area from which most terrorists were dispatched in the past, as a result of the effective counterterrorism measures taken by the Israeli security forces and the existence of the �security fence� (although it has not yet been completed). Second , the freedom of action enjoyed by the Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip and the relative ease with which they � as well as smugglers � can cross the long Israeli-Egyptian border . 3 In our assessment, the results of the suicide bombing attack in Eilat are liable to encourage the terrorist infrastructures in the Gaza Strip to use the modus operandi.