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Yahya Ayyash

Yahya Ayyash
Born 22 February 1966
Rafat, West Bank
Died 5 January 1996(1996-01-05) (aged 29)
Beit Lahia, Gaza Strip
Alma mater Birzeit University
Organization Hamas
Religion Islam

Yahya Abd-al-Latif Ayyash (Arabic: يحيى عياش‎) (22 February 1966[1] – 5 January 1996) was the chief bombmaker of Hamas and the leader of the West Bank battalion of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. In that capacity, he earned the nickname the Engineer (Arabic: المهندس‎, transliterated al-Muhandis). He was assassinated by Shin Bet on 5 January 1996.

He is a celebrated hero[2] to Palestinians who have named streets and other locales in his honor.[3] [4]


  • Early life 1
  • Work for Hamas 2
    • Ramat Ef'al 2.1
  • Assassination 3
    • Aftermath 3.1
  • Veneration in Palestinian society 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6

Early life

Ayyash was born in Rafat on 22 February 1966, the eldest of three brothers. Al Qassam's website, however, states his birth date as 3 March 1966.[5] As a child, he was very pious, receiving an award from the Islamic Trust[6] for his talent in memorizing the Quran. While a boy, Ayyash showed a talent for electrical and mechanical work—repairing radios, television sets, and the like. After graduating from high school in 1985, he entered Birzeit University in 1987. He received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1991.[7]

Described as "well educated, ambitious, and soft-spoken," Ayyash hailed from a relatively affluent family. Married, with one child, Ayyash had planned to study for a master's degree in Jordan, but was denied permission to do so by Israeli authorities. It was around this time he joined Hamas.[8]

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.[9]

Because TNT and other high explosives were generally not available in the Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza strip), Ayyash often used a combination of acetone and detergent, both commonly available household products. When combined, they form acetone peroxide, an explosive known as "Mother of Satan" for its instability.

Ramat Ef'al

Ayyash first came to the attention of Israeli security forces as a result of the failed bombing of Ramat Ef'al. 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 12-kilogram (26 lb) gasoline tanks filled to capacity, connected to an acetone peroxide-based detonator. After evacuating the area, sappers used a robot armed with a shotgun 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.[10]


Following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Palestinian Authority began to cooperate more closely with Shin Bet in hunting Ayyash.[11] Shin Bet learned (through means that remain classified to this day) that Ayyash had, on occasion, spent the night in the Gaza City home of Osama Hamad, a childhood friend of his.[12] Shin Bet had previously had dealings with Kamil Hamad, Osama Hamad's uncle.

In October 1995, Shin Bet operatives approached Kamil Hamad. After the Shin Bet threatened to inform Hamas of his betrayal, Kamil Hamad agreed to cooperate. Shin Bet agents gave Hamad a cell phone, and told him it was bugged so they could listen in on Ayyash's conversations.[13] They did not tell Hamad that, in addition to eavesdropping devices, it also contained 15 grams of RDX explosive.[2]

Kamil Hamad gave the phone to his nephew Osama, knowing that Ayyash regularly used Osama's phones.[14] At 8:00 am on 5 January 1996, Ayyash's father called him. Ayyash picked it up and talked with his father. Overhead, an Israeli plane picked up their conversation and relayed it to an Israeli command post. When it was confirmed that it was Ayyash on the phone, Shin Bet remotely detonated it, killing Ayyash instantly.[2] The Militant, an international communist newsweekly, reported that "100,000 Palestinians... attended the funeral".[15] He was killed in Beit Lahia.[16]

Israel has a policy that it never confirms or denies its participation in targeted killings. 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. In 2012, former Shin Bet director Carmi Gillon confirmed the story in the documentary The Gatekeepers. Kamal Hamad has disappeared, the Israeli press speculates that for betraying Ayyash he received $1m (pounds 650,000), a fake passport and a visa to the US.[17]


Following Ayyash's death, four suicide bombings killed over 60 Israelis in February and March 1996. The first of these took place shortly after the end of the 40-day mourning period for Ayyash and the cell that claimed responsibility called itself "Disciples of the martyr Yahya 'Ayyash", stating it was a revenge attack for his assassination. Israeli security services who later interrogated one of the organizers of the attacks said they were carried out by a sub-group of the Qassam Brigades, and that, "the attacks were most probably a direct reaction to the assassination of 'Ayyash [with] no far-reaching political goal."[18]

Veneration in Palestinian society

In April 2010, Israel's Channel 10 reported that the Palestinian Authority named a street in Ramallah after Ayyash. The future presidential compound of the PA is being built on the street. Only a few weeks earlier, a square in Ramallah was named after the Palestinian militant Dalal Mughrabi who directed the 1978 Coastal Road massacre.[19] PA sources said the PA did not intend to name the street after Ayyash. The Ramallah Municipality stated that the street name had been chosen at the end of the 1990s shortly after Ayyash's death.[3]

In response, Israel, the United States and Canada condemned the Palestinian Authority.[20][21][22] The Israeli Prime Minister's Office called it an "outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority"[20] while a U.S. State Department spokesperson stated "we also strongly condemn the glorification of terrorists. Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians either by official statements or by the dedication of public places hurts peace efforts and must end."[21]

The PA had previously named streets in Jenin[3] and Beit Lahia as well as square in Jericho in honor of Ayyash.[23]


  1. ^ Katz, 70
  2. ^ a b c Katz, 260
  3. ^ a b c "The Palestinian Authority still allows and even encourages shaheeds to be turned into role models". Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  4. ^ J.J. Goldberg, 'The Problem With Netanyahu's Response to Jewish Terror,' The Forward 4 August 2015.
    • "Israeli streets named after Jewish terrorists. Don’t let anyone tell you different".
    • "There were 12 of them: nine members of the Irgun and three from the Stern Group, or Lehi. Two (Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim) were hanged for assassinating the British minister Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1945. One (Shlomo Ben-Yosef) unsuccessfully attacked an Arab civilian bus in the Galilee in 1938. Three (Avshalom Haviv, Meir Nakar, Yaakov Weiss) participated in the 1947 Acre prison break. The rest attacked British security personnel".
    • "In addition to streets named for each individual, the neighborhood’s main drag bears the name by which they’re collectively remembered: Olei HaGardom, “those who ascended the gallows.” Dozens more cities around Israel have an Olei HaGardom Street. Many have streets named for the individual members, too".
    • "Two other streets in East Talpiot are named for Shmuel Azar and Moshe Marzouk, Egyptian Jews hanged in Cairo in 1955 for bombing the American and British libraries. The operation, known as the Lavon Affair, was a bone-headed plot by Israeli military intelligence meant to sour Egypt’s ties with the West. Elsewhere in Israel are streets named for Hirsh Lekert, hanged in Vilna in 1902 for trying to assassinate the tsarist governor; Sholom Schwartzbard, who confessed to assassinating Ukrainian rebel leader Simon Petlura in Paris in 1926, but was acquitted by a French jury; and Herschel Grynszpan, who assassinated a Nazi diplomat in Paris in November 1938, touching off Kristallnacht."
  5. ^ "Yahya Ayyash". Al Qassam. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Van Tuyll, Frederik (2009). "The emergence of the Islamic trust". Trusts and Trustees 12 (9): 7–9.  
  7. ^ Katz, 9, 70–71
  8. ^ Rosaler, 2003, p. 36.
  9. ^ Katz 77 (Bet El), 106–109 (Afula and Hadera), 147 (#5 bus), 167 (Biet Lid), 191 (#20 bus), 197 (#26 bus)
  10. ^ Katz, 5–9
  11. ^ Katz, 248
  12. ^ Katz, 249
  13. ^ Katz, 251–252
  14. ^ Katz, 257
  15. ^ Gaza: 100,000 Palestinians Protest Assassination. The Militant. 22 January 1996
  16. ^ Palestinian Believed to Be Bombing Mastermind Is Killed, New York Times
  17. ^ "How the phone bomb was set up". The Independent (in en-GB). Retrieved 2015-10-10. 
  18. ^ Gunning, 2008, p. 210.
  19. ^ Herb Keinon (8 April 2008). "Israel slams naming of Ramallah street after arch-terrorist". The Jerusalem Post. 
  20. ^ a b "Israel condemns the naming of a street in Ramallah after terrorist Yehiye Ayash". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  21. ^ a b "Daily Press Briefing". U.S. Department of State. 7 April 2010. Archived from the original on April 12, 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  22. ^ "Canada condemns decision to name PA building after terrorist". YnetNews. AFP. 9 April 2008. 
  23. ^ "Abbas' PA Again Honors Terrorist Who Murdered Israelis". Zionist Organization of America. 14 July 2008. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 


  • Gunning, Jeroen (2008). Hamas in politics: democracy, religion, violence. Columbia University Press.  
  • Maxine Rosaler (2003). Hamas: Palestinian Terrorists. The Rosen Publishing Group.  
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