A new Israeli army report highlights attacks by Palestinians over the last year and a half that the military says were motivated by a desire to commit suicide, rather than by ideology.
The report, published on Thursday by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the IDF branch responsible for civil Palestinian affairs, details three admissions by attackers that their violent actions were the result of “difficult backgrounds that pushed them to commit these attempted suicide attacks.”
The admissions were made during interrogations after the attacks, the report said.
The brief, entitled “Beyond the Knife: How Domestic Problems Can Lead to Terror,” also details three other instances in which the media, family members or Palestinian officials revealed that problems at home led people to commit attacks.
Since October 2015, 40 Israelis, two Americans, a Palestinian and an Eritrean national have been killed in stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks.
According to AFP figures, some 250 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant have also been killed, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks.
The spate of Palestinian attacks that began in October 2015 was dubbed the “lone wolf” intifada, as many of the attacks were carried out by individuals who were not connected to any terror group.
The attacks were at first attributed to tensions over Palestinian fears that Israel was seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Palestinian leaders have argued that the primary cause for attacks during this period was despair caused by Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank.
The Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, continues to refer to each attack as a part of a “Jerusalem Intifada.”
Israeli security officials have noted a marked drop in attacks in the last several months.
The COGAT report claimed that reasons for the lone-wolf attacks “include but are not limited” to “domestic violence within the household (with family members such as siblings, spouses, fiance, etc.); social criticism for an immoral act such as adultery, lack of respect for the family, matriculation failure and more; and serious psychological issues stemming from depression, despair, and mental illness.”
According to the report, B. O., 20 years old from Artas, was injured after committing a stabbing attack in Efrat. After the attack, he stated in his interrogation that he “was fed up with his life and his despair brought upon these actions.”
J. T., a 20-year old from Kiton, said in her interrogation that she carried out a stabbing attack because her marriage engagement was called off. S. M., 18-years old, said that he carried out an attack after failing his matriculation exam.
The report added that one Palestinian attacker, H. Q. from Awarta, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized for a lengthy period of time after committing a stabbing attack.
The report also detailed three stories that came to light of attackers who were seemingly motivated by domestic issues.
One such story is that of Rukayya Abu Eid, 13, who the report said “grew up in a modest family household” near the village of Anata.
According to the report, Abu Eid “woke up one morning to her mother asking her to prepare breakfast with her sisters. Between peeling potatoes and in the time that her mother was baking pitas, a big fight broke out between Rukayya and her sisters. Rukayya left the home in a rage and although her mother searched for her, she thought that Rukayya left to the fields.
“Only a little later, she learned that Rukayya, in a rage, had arrived at Anatot and attempted to stab soldiers, giving them no choice but to shoot her. She was killed at the scene,” the report added.
The 13-year-old’s family members, according to the report, testified on Palestinian TV “that the family feud had pushed Rukayya to commit the attack in order to commit suicide.”
The COGAT report argued that some young people who commit attacks do so in order “to escape their bitter fate and get the recognition of ‘the martyr,’ which will absolve them of all wrongdoing or unusual behaviors, and death will possibly provide their family with financial benefits—receiving compensation from the Palestinian Authority and therefore, not subjecting the family to burdens.”
The PA pays a monthly stipend to families who have a member who is considered to have been “martyred,” which usually means being killed by an Israeli during an attack or suspected attack.
One Times of Israel investigation indicated that a 17-year-old Palestinian who gruesomely killed a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her bed had had a death wish, according to his Facebook posts.
In a report released sixth months into the wave of attacks, Israel’s internal security agency the Shin Bet said that most of the attackers were motivated by “personal issues,” notably “a dire personal or financial situation.”
Only some of the attacks were carried out due to “nationalistic motives,” the Shin Bet said.
Avi Issacharoff and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.