Initial Findings of the Profile of Palestinian Terrorists Who Carried Out Attacks in Israel in the Current Wave of Terrorism (Updated to October 25, 2015)

The contagious effect of stabbing attacks: a notice posted to the Palestinian social networks, some of them affiliated with Hamas, reading "If you don't stand up for Jerusalem, who will?" It features recent postings written by terrorist operatives Muhannad Shafiq and Fadi Aloun, who were killed carrying out stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and became role models for terrorists who followed in their footsteps.
The contagious effect of stabbing attacks: a notice posted to the Palestinian social networks, some of them affiliated with Hamas, reading "If you don't stand up for Jerusalem, who will?" It features recent postings written by terrorist operatives Muhannad Shafiq and Fadi Aloun, who were killed carrying out stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and became role models for terrorists who followed in their footsteps.


1.   The wave of Palestinian violence and terrorism currently plaguing Israel began during the most recent Jewish High Holidays. In retrospect, the ITIC has concluded it began with the stones thrown at the vehicle of Alexander Levlowitz near the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem on September 14, 2015. Initially the wave of violence and terrorism focused on the Temple Mount and east Jerusalem and later spread throughout Jerusalem and to other sites inside Israel and various hotspots in Judea and Samaria (especially the region around Hebron). So far 12 Israelis and more than 70 Palestinians have been killed.[1]

2.   The current wave of violence and terrorism is part of the overall "popular resistance" strategy adopted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah at the Sixth Fatah Conference in August 2009.[2] It is manifested by rising and falling levels of popular terrorism. The current wave (which is unique in some aspects) is one of the most serious. Its popular terrorism includes riots, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and stabbing and vehicular attacks which are supported and condoned by the PA. The current wave of Palestinian terrorism, like those before it, has included several shooting attacks, which are not included in the modus operandi of the "popular resistance," but the PA does not condemn them, and in effect supports them.

3.   This study examines the profiles 35 Palestinian terrorists who carried out attacks in Israeli territory (Jerusalem and other locations inside Israel) during the current wave of terrorism. Twenty-four of them were killed while carrying out the attacks and 11 were injured. They carried out a total of 29 terrorist attacks, most of them in greater Jerusalem and some in other locations inside Israel. Their personal attributes were different, but based on the initial examination a general profile can be drawn.

4.   The Palestinian who most commonly carries out a terrorist attack in Israel, especially a stabbing attack, is generally maleyoung, between the ages of 17 and 19, unmarried, unknown to Israeli security, not affiliated with a terrorist organization, and lives in one of the neighborhoods of east Jerusalem (especially Jabel Mukaber and Sur Bahr in southeast Jerusalem) and in several instances also in the Hebron region. In most instances he carries out the attack by himself following a spontaneous personal decision without instructions from any organization or leadership. He does not follow an Islamist ideology (some of the terrorists lived fairly secular lives) and does not belong to a terrorist organization, although he feeds off the incitement to terrorism and anti-Israel hatred disseminated by the various terrorist organizations.

5.   The Palestinian terrorist who carries out an attack in Israel is motivated by Palestinian nationalism, and for the past six years he has been deeply influenced by reports of popular terrorism. He has also been influenced by events on the Temple Mount and by the false slogan "Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger." He is personally and socially frustrated and feeds off the anti-Israel hatred and incitement on the social networks (mainly Facebook). He is willing to risk his life and aspires to follow in the footsteps of Palestinians who died initiating the current wave of terrorist attacks (the deaths of some of them and their glorification in the Palestinian media has become contagious, and copying them has become a challenge and "fashionable").


6.   An initial conclusion of this study is that the attributes of the terrorists who have carried out terrorist attacks inside Israeli territory during the current wave of terrorism are different in some respects from those who carry them out in Judea and Samaria. The main difference would appear to be the areas they come from: many terrorists in Judea and Samaria have come from the Hebron region, while most of the terrorists who carry out the attacks in Israel have come from east Jerusalem (for reasons that will be discussed below). Another difference is their ages: the terrorists who carry out attacks in Israel are younger (average age of 18) while those from Judea and Samaria are slightly older (average age of 20).[3] As far as their level of education, the percentage of students in Judea and Samaria who carry out terrorist attacks (and participate in riots) seems higher.

7.   The current wave of terrorist attacks has witnessed young, lone Palestinians carrying out terrorist attacks. They have made a personal decision to carry out attacks with high personal risks that are likely to cost them their lives. On the other hand, stabbing attacks have no dramatic or spectacular results (like the suicide bombing attacks of the second intifada). That has become more and more obvious as the current wave of violence and terrorism continues.

8.   That characteristic seems to indicate the depth of the frustration and desperation felt by the younger generation of Palestinians at the forefront of the wave of attacks. Their generation did not experience the second intifada, but rather was raised in the shadow of the violent characteristics of the "popular resistance." They are frustrated by what seems to them as the ongoing Israeli occupation, disappointed by the PA and apparently also by the Palestinian terrorist organizations. They regard the violent struggle as the only path to bring change to Palestinian national prospects and to their own personal futures. The intense incitement around the Temple Mount and the difficult conditions in the Palestinian neighborhoods and east Jerusalem are unique additional incentives motivating young Palestinians from the eastern part of the city to stand at the forefront of the current wave of terrorism (which did not happen in the past). The result is that the strong anti-Israel incitement spread by the Palestinian media, especially by the social networks, falls on willing ears and contributes to their motivation to carry out terrorist attacks.

Methodological Remarks

9.   This study is primary and partial. It deals only with profiles of the Palestinian terrorists who carried out attacks in Israeli territory (and not Judea and Samaria). The ITIC considers them two separate categories because they have unique attributes not shared by those who have carried out attacks in Judea and Samaria. For that reason, and because of the primary nature of the information, general conclusions cannot be drawn about the Palestinians who carry out "popular resistance" terrorist attacks or about the deep-seated motivations of young Palestinians (such as the importance of nationalist vs. religious motives; the influence of socio-economic factors; and the role of personal, family or regional considerations).

10.       The study is based on primary Palestinian and Israeli open sources. A great deal of material was taken from the Palestinian media, especially websites and the social networks (including sites dedicated to the memories of Palestinians who were killed, sites of various towns and villages, personal Facebook pages, statements from relatives). Israeli sources included Israeli Police Force reports, indictments handed down against terrorists who carried out attacks and the website of the Israel Security Agency, and the Israeli media, which closely follow the various events, and its reports contain much important information (even if it is primary and partial) about the terrorists who carry out attacks.

11.       The study is time-defined: it refers to the period that began on September 14, 2015, when Palestinians threw stones at the vehicle of Alexander Levlowitz near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, killing him (which the ITIC considers the beginning of the current wave of terrorism). Thus the current wave of terrorism has so far lasted for about a month and a half (it is dated by others as beginning on October 1, 2015, with the killing of the Henkins on the road between Alon Moreh and Itamar). The study is updated to October 25, 2015, although the wave of terrorism continues and it will be necessary to update it further in the future, in view of the daily terrorist attacks being carried out.

12.       The study has three appendices. The first presents the main findings of the primary examination of the attributes the terrorists. The other two include a short, initial summary of the attacks carried out in Israel and individually examine each of the terrorists who carried them out. The parameters examined include the modus operandi of attack, its geographical location, where the terrorist came from, his motivation, age, organizational affiliation (if it exists), family status, education, profession, the involvement of women in terrorist attacks and various other aspects unique to each individual terrorist.

[1]According to a spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health so far 61 Palestinians have been killed (Voice of Palestine Radio, October 26, 2015). According to the written Palestinian media 71 Palestinians have been (as of October 30, 2015). According to Israeli security sources, more than 65 Palestinians have been killed in clashes since the beginning of October 2015 (Haaretz, October 30, 2015). Some of those killed were Palestinians who attempted terrorist attacks in Israeli territory and Judea and Samaria. Palestinians were also killed while rioting in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
[2]For further information about the "popular resistance" strategy see the May 20, 2013 bulletin, "The Palestinian 'Popular Resistance' and Its Built-In Violence," and February 26, 2014 bulletin "Violence and Terrorism in Judea and Samaria, 2013: Data, Characteristics and Trends."
[3]The conclusion is based on a comparison of the findings of this study and data supplied by the Israel Security Agency, as of October 29, 2015, as are quoted from an article by Amos Harel in Haaretz on October 30, 2015. The data, as quoted by Amos Harel, relate to all the terrorist attacks and not only the ones carried out inside Israel, with which thus study deals. According to the data, about 80% of the terrorists who carried out attacks in the current wave of terrorism were between the ages of 16 and 24 (three were between the ages of 13 and 15 and the rest between 25 and 33). Close to 90% were male and of them, 90% were unmarried. Thirty-five percent came from east Jerusalem, after during the first two weeks the number from east Jerusalem approached 80%. Fifty percent came from Judea and Samaria and 92% lived in Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, and only 8% from Samaria. Another 5% were Israeli Arabs and 10% escaped and their identities are unknown.