JERUSALEM Israel, with the world’s largest collection of would-be suicide bombers in jail, has begun the first in-depth study of the psyches of men and women willing to blow up themselves for a cause.
Psychiatric researchers have interviewed 20 persons held in Israeli prisons. Authorities say “several dozen” more will be studied.
The newspaper Ha’aretz reported yesterday that Western intelligence agencies had shown interest in the project and the prospect of forming a psychological profile of suicide bombers.
Security forces have interrogated would-be bombers to learn operational details that could help avert future strikes, but the motives and psyches have not been examined in detail until now.
The study could have broad value in a world reeling from the September 11 attacks and an emerging suicide culture among Muslim militants.
Preliminary findings link motivation to the high level of support by the general Palestinian population, which views such acts as the best means available for countering Israel’s military strength.
Another factor is said to be the ample financial support provided to the terrorists’ families by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Islamist organizations and the Palestinian Authority.
Suicide bombers also are motivated by revenge for personal traumas such as the deaths of relatives or friends.
The study is sponsored by Israel’s National Security Council in conjunction with other security branches, academic researchers and the Prisons Service.
Most of the would-be bombers were arrested on their way to the planned attacks, on the basis of intelligence information.
Some were captured only after their explosive devices failed.
In one case, a man sweating profusely walked into a crowded Jerusalem cafe last year and asked for a glass of water after the device he was wearing failed to explode. He was tackled by a waiter who found him suspicious.
A few of the militants turned themselves in to police just before the planned attacks.
In all the cases under study, the subjects had recorded their “final testaments” on video.
Suicide bombings initially were a means of attack by Islamist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but secular groups like Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah also have taken up the practice.
Meanwhile, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli gunfire yesterday during a demonstration in the West Bank. He was the second Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli forces in two days.
The Palestinian was shot when a group of schoolchildren pelted troops with rocks and bottles in the West Bank town of Tulkarm. Troops responded with rubber-coated bullets, also wounding another Palestinian boy, Palestinian witnesses said.
Separately, Israel’s attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that “targeted killings” of wanted Palestinians should be used only as a last resort.
The announcement came after concerns about a new escalation of violence ahead of Israel’s Jan. 28 parliamentary elections.