Yahya Abdal-Tif Ayyash (يحيى عياش;
February 22, 1966- January 5, 1996) was the chief bombmaker of Hamasand the leader of the Samariabattalion of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. In that capacity, he earned the nickname "the Engineer" ( _ar. المهندس, transliterated "Al-Muhandis").
Ayyash is credited with advancing the technique of
suicide bombingin the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The bombings he orchestrated caused the deaths of approximately 90 Israelis. [Katz, 256] A master of disguise, Ayyash was the most wanted man in Israel for three years, and the target of a massive man-hunt. To Palestinians, he was a celebrated hero. Ayyash was assassinated by the Israeli Shabak in 1996. Shabak tricked a friend of Ayyash's into giving him a bomb-laden cell phone. When Ayyash used it, Shabak detonated it, killing him instantly.
Ayyash was born in
Rafat, the eldest of three brothers. As a child, he was very pious, receiving an award from the Islamic Trust[Van Tuyll, Frederik. "«The emergence of the Islamic trust»". Oxford Journals: Trusts and Trustees [http://tandt.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/12/9/7] : "The Islamic trust, governed by both the laws of the jurisdiction under which it is written and by Shari'ah law, has become a popular financial and devolution planning vehicle for assets held by Muslims." ] for his talent in memorizing the Koran. While a boy, Ayyash showed a talent for electrical and mechanical work - repairing radios, televisionsets, and alike. After graduating from high school in 1985, he entered Bir Zeit Universityin 1987. He received a bachelor of sciencein electrical engineeringin 1991. [Katz, 9, 70-71]
Work for Hamas
Ayyash built the bombs used in a number of Hamas suicide attacks: the
Mehola Junction bombing, the Afula Bus massacre, the Hadera central station massacre, the Tel Aviv bus 5 massacre, the Egged bus 36 bombing, the Ramat Gan bus 20 bombing, and the Jerusalem bus 26 bombing. As part of a strategic alliance between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ayyash built the bombs used by Islamic Jihad at the Beit Lid massacre. [Katz 77 (Bet El), 106-109 (Afula and Hadera), 147 (#5 bus), 167 (Biet Lid), 191 (#20 bus), 197 (#26 bus)]
Because TNT and other high explosives were generally not available in the Palestinian territories (the
West Bankand Gaza strip), Ayyash often used a combination of acetoneand detergent, both commonly available household products. When combined, they form Acetone peroxide, an explosive known as "Mother of Satan" for its instability.
Ayyash first came to the attention of Israeli security forces as a result of the failed bombing of
Ramat Efal. Following a high-speed chase, three would-be Hamas suicide bombers were arrested by police. When police inspected their car, they found it rigged with a bomb - five twelve-kilogram gasolinetanks filled to capacity, connected to an acetone peroxide-based detonator. After evacuating the area, sappers used a robotarmed with a shot-gun to shoot the detonator, in the hopes of defusing it. Instead, it detonated, in a massive explosion. [Police investigators] "were sure that if it had been detonated in a crowded area, it would have killed hundreds".
Israeli investigators learned Ayyash's name during subsequent interrogation of the three arrested suspects. [Katz, 5-9]
Death and aftermath
Ayyash's fellow Hamas militants passed him a
cell phone. It exploded when Ayyash was using it, killing him instantly. Reportedly, 100,000 Palestinians attended his funeral. [ [http://www.themilitant.com/1996/603/603_19.html Gaza: 100,000 Palestinians Protest Assassination] . The Militant. January 22, 1996]
The State of Israel has a policy that it never confirms or denies its participation in
selective assassinations. Per this policy, Israel did not confirm or deny its role in killing Ayyash. This led to wild rumors and speculations as to the extent of their involvement.
Three days after the Ayyash's death, Shabak head
Carmi Gillonresigned, due to Shabak's failure to prevent the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Ayyash was succeeded in the Hamas organization by
Mohiyedine Sharif("the electrician"), one of Ayyash's protégés. Ayyash's death, along with Israel's subsequent targeting of other master bomb-makers, led to a noticeable decline in the effectiveness of suicide bombs. [Zuckerman, Mortimer B. Using hate against Israel. June 12, 2000 U.S. News and World Report] At the time of Ayyash's suicide attacks, the border between Israel and the West Bank was quite porous, making it easy for a suicide bomber to cross into Israel unnoticed. Since then, the Israeli West Bank barrierhas made it significantly harder for Palestinians suicide-bombers to cross into Israel.
* Katz, Samuel. The Hunt for the Engineer. Lyons Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58574-749-1
* [http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/sib/6_04/ayash.htm A senior Palestinian terrorist as role model and admired figure] at Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S), Israel
* [http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/549/re1.htm Jury, judge and executioner] by Saleh Abdel Jawad in
Al-AhramWeekly, 30 August 2001
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