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profiles Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 07:49 GMT
Who are the suicide bombers?
Israeli investigators near the covered body of a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber
The suicide bombers can get right to their targets
By BBC News Online's Kate Milner

Suicide bomb attacks against Israeli targets have become the most dramatic and bloody weapon in the armoury of the Palestinian militant groups.

It is a measure of the hatred of Israel felt by some Palestinians that there appears to be no shortage of recruits ready to die for their cause.

The suicide bombers are typically unmarried men in their late teens and 20s.

They act in the belief that they will go straight to paradise, where they will get places of honour next to God.


Most of the bombers are affiliated to the Palestinian militant groups Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Woman injured in suicide bomb attack
Israelis fear a new wave of attacks

Such attacks are, according to analysts, planned meticulously, along the lines of a military operation.

In some cases, support teams transport the bomber by van or car to the location minutes before the detonation.

The Palestinian militant groups, which are Sunni Muslim, resemble the Lebanese Shia'a militant group Hezbollah in that they are acutely media-conscious and the timing and positioning of attacks are carefully considered to achieve the maximum public impact.

The explosives usually have a hand-pulled detonator rather than a button, because it is less likely to go off accidentally.

Promised rewards

Some media reports have speculated that suicide bombers take drugs before they go on their missions, but this would run contrary to the strict religious teachings they adhere to.

They are likely to be motivated by religious fervour.

Jewish man on a practically empty bus
The bombers often target buses in Israel
According to Islamic tradition, he who gives his life for an Islamic cause will have his sins forgiven and a place reserved in paradise.

For many years, suicide attacks on Israelis have been seen by some Palestinians as just such acts of martyrdom.

Recruits are reassured by their organisation that their families will be looked after materially until they die, and there are charitable organisations that exist for this purpose.

Recruits are picked out from mosques, schools and religious institutions. They are likely to have shown particular dedication to the principles of Islam, and are singled out for deeper study.

Gradually, they get more involved in political issues, and are taught the rewards that will await them if they sacrifice their lives.

Eventually, many of them will volunteer for a suicide mission, hoping for greater glory.

They will spend less and less time with their families and devote themselves to religious study and spiritual preparation. They are sent out with just a day or two's notice on how and where to blow themselves up.

Faced with men who embrace their mission with such zeal, Israeli security forces will have to be extra vigilant to stop them.

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | Middle East
27 Mar 01 | Middle East
27 Mar 01 | Middle East
26 Oct 00 | Middle East
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