Details of April 30, 2003 Tel Aviv suicide bombing
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
On April 30, 2003, a suicide terrorist blew himself up at the entrance to Mike’s Place, a pub/cafe on the Tel Aviv promenade. Three civilians were murdered, and over 50 were wounded in the attack.
The attack was perpetrated by Asif Muhammad Hanif, 22, a British citizen.
A second British citizen, Omar Khan Sharif, 27, married, a resident of Derby, who was also due to have perpetrated a suicide attack, fled the scene. Khan Sharif attempted to detonate the bomb in his possession but the bomb failed to explode. He fled the scene after discarding the bomb. It cannot be ruled out that he was injured by the explosion of the detonator. During his flight, Khan Sharif struggled with a security guard at the David Intercontinental Hotel as he tried to snatch the latter’s ID. Khan Sharif’s body was positively identified on May 19, 2003, after having washed ashore on the Tel Aviv beachfront on May 12.
Asif Muhammad Hanif’s bomb was composed of standard explosives.
The two terrorists reached the scene of the attack from a nearby hotel, in which they had rented a room several hours earlier. Several days earlier, they had spent one night in the same hotel.
Hamas and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have claimed joint responsibility for the attack.
Prior to the attack, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) had received general, unfocused, information that was taken seriously and upon the basis of which, a working assumption was made that a terrorist attack, to be perpetrated somewhere in the center of the country, was being planned. Despite expedited and varied security measures, the security forces were unable to prevent the attack.
Immediately after the attack, the ISA – in cooperation with the Israel Police – began an accelerated and ramified investigation.
An examination of the unexploded bomb discarded by Omar Khan Sharif showed that it had been hidden in a book and contained standard explosives.
A search of the terrorists’ hotel room revealed an elastic belt, explosives and a map of the center of Tel Aviv, on which several crowded locales – including Mike’s Place – were clearly marked
Following is a record of the terrorists’ movements prior to the attack:
The two terrorists were careful to establish their presence in Judea and Samaria by forging links with foreign left wing activists and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Foreign left wing activists, especially ISM members, who seek entry into Israel, often do so under false pretenses, via cover stories – entry for matrimonial, tourist, religious and otherr purposes – which they coordinate prior to arriving in Israel.
Nasif Diekh, a resident of Naama in the Binyamin area, was arrested and admitted that the two terrorists – with whom he was previously unfamiliar – had asked him, one week prior to the attack, to help them volunteer at the medical center in Ramallah where he was employed. Diekh gave them lodging at the center. Diekh said that the two terrorists had been driven from Ramallah to Nablus by a female Italian journalist and left wing activist.
The Italian journalist – who was detained for questioning on May 4, 2003 – said that on April 23, 2003, she had indeed driven the two terrorists to Nablus. The terrorists told her that they had arrived to study the situation of the Palestinians. The two toured a medical center and a school. In the evening, they returned to Ramallah; the journalist arranged that they would travel to the Gaza Strip the following day.
On April 24, 2003, the terrorists entered the Gaza Strip via the Erez checkpoint, along with the Italian woman journalist and additional Italian journalists, which greatly assisted them in avoiding suspicion at Erez. During their stay in the Gaza Strip, they visited Rafiah and Khan Yunis and met with activists from the various organizations in the Gaza Strip.
After the visit to Gaza, the Italian woman journalist returned to Jerusalem. After the attack, she understood that it was the terrorists who had perpetrated the April 30, 2003 attack who had traveled with her, but made no mention of this to any official body.
None of the persons involved – neither Palestinian nor foreign – bothered to contact any official body, despite their familiarity with the terrorists, even after they understood that they were involved in the attack, until they came under ISA investigation.
It has become clear from the investigation of the Italian journalist that the terrorists exploited foreign left wing activists in the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas for the purpose of covering their movements throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Even though the latter were unwitting, they in effect were accomplices to terrorist activity. This fact requires the security forces to reexamine the issue of the presence of foreign left wing activists and non-governmental organizations in the PA areas in light of the possibility that they are being exploited for terrorist purposes.
The ISA, Israel Police and other security bodies, both in Israel and abroad, are continuing to conduct a sensitive, complex and wide-ranging investigation.
There are additional details which the ISA is not at liberty to divulge lest this impair the ongoing investigation.
The fact that the attack was perpetrated by a foreign national, and that another foreign national was supposed to have perpetrated an additional attack, sharply raises the issue of how to deal with the involvement of foreign nationals – citizens of friendly countries – in terrorist activity designed to maim and murder innocent civilians. This was not the first time that the State of Israel has been the target of foreign terrorists bearing British passports.
This is one of the most disturbing and complicated issues to deal with from a security-intelligence point-of-view, due to the fact that no Western country is capable of providing an effective answer without the full cooperation of all countries that are threatened by Islamic fundamentalist terror.
Due to the seriousness of the threat, as reflected in the April 30, 2003 attack, the entry of foreign nationals into the State of Israel – both via Erez checkpoint and the international crossings – is being reexamined.