Beyond the Knife: How Domestic Problems Can Lead to Terror

Palestinian youth are trying to commit suicide by committing terror attacks, essentially to find an escape out of their psychological, personal, and family struggles.



First the news is received—the surprised mother or father receive the message from a close relative, turn on the television and see the name of their son or daughter on the screen after he or she was killed or arrested while carrying out a terrorist attack. Afterwards, the media arrives at their home and before the family can be informed by the relevant officials to portray a strong national narrative to the Arab and foreign media, the facts are clear, —our child chose to commit a suicide attack because he could not cope with the difficulties of his or her life.

Since October 2015, more and more attackers are choosing to commit terror attacks and suicide missions for various reasons. Among these reasons include but are not limited to various levels of 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. In the absence of an appropriate response to these problems, both by the family household or the authorities, young people feel trapped in a dead end and that their only way to escape is by dying. Committing suicide is not option or a normative behavior, therefore, young people choose to commit acts of terror in order to die to become “martyrs”. These youth assume that the execution of a terror attack will allow the young person to escape their bitter fate and get the recognition of "the martyr" for 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.

Whether holding a knife, aiming a gun or behind the wheel of a car, there are a variety of attacks that stem from personal difficulties dictated by the actions of suicide terrorists.

Rukayya Abu Eid, 13-years old, grew up in a modest family household near the village of Anata. She 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. An investigation was carried out between family members, and their testimonies were broadcasted on Palestinian TV verifying that the family feud had pushed Rukayya to commit the attack in order to commit suicide.

Issam Thawabta, a 34-year old from Beit Fajar was a long-term patient at a hospital for mentally disabled patients in Bethlehem. According to the testimony of his brother, Issam was a loner and for four years, Issam bounced between two universities—the Open University in Jerusalem and Abu Dis. However, due to his severe mental condition, he was forced him to quit his studies. On the morning of November 22nd, 2015, the distraught Thawabta went to the Gush Etzion Junction where he committed cold-blooded murder by stabbing Hadar Buchris to death. She was a 21-year old woman who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, encountering a mentally unstable man who chose to determine the fate of an innocent person and himself. He was shot by soldiers before he could attempt to hurt other innocent bypassers. Thawabta did not leave a will, he did not inform anyone of his intentions and he did not belong to any political organization, which indicates that all these actions were the result of a temporary unstable mental state rather than a coherent plan with a solid ideology behind it.

Muhammad Turkman, a 25-year old Palestinian police officer from the Kabtiya village, was an offender of illegal arms trafficking. Palestinian security forces came to his house without any connection to Israel and conducted a residential search of his home. They attempted to arrest Turkman after finding and confiscating illegal weapons inside his home. Turkman was furious at the criminal charges by security forces, and sought revenge to incriminate the police forces against Israel. He fired at Israeli soldiers in Beit El and the IDF responded by firing at him to prevent casualties. Turkman was killed immediately at the scene.


Despite these incidents, there are many other lone attackers who were arrested at the scene and put through investigation. These investigations later exposed their difficult backgrounds that pushed them to commit these attempted suicide attacks. H.Q. from Awarta, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized for a long period of time was injured after committing a stabbing attack. B. O., 20-years old from Artas, was injured after committing a stabbing attack in Efrat. After the attack, he stated that he was fed up with his life and his despair brought upon these actions. J. T., a 20-year old from Kiton, carried out a stabbing attack because her marriage engagement was called off. S. M., 18-years old, said that he carried out an attack due to the failure of his matriculation exam.

Reviewing each and every one of these cases raises one conclusion—after fights within their family household and without any support from society, these young people remain isolated, angry, and without the appropriate psychological treatment. They feel that their only option to get out of this vicious cycle is to commit a terror attack, with the goal of becoming a martyr. IDF soldiers do not check the reason why Palestinians commit these attacks against Israelis; they only work to stop them from carrying out the attack. If Palestinians paid closer attention to the problems of their relatives, children and the oppressed individuals in their society, and reach out a helping hand—a new healthier generation will grow up and will be able to deal and overcome with the difficulties, instead of trying hurt themselves and innocents through acts of terror.