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Yahya Ayyash

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Yahya Ayyash
Ayyash on a mug
Born6 March 1966
Died5 January 1996(1996-01-05) (aged 29)
Cause of deathAssassination
Other namesThe Engineer
Alma materBirzeit University
Movement Hamas

Yahya Abd-al-Latif Ayyash (Arabic: يحيى عياش; 6 March 1966 – 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). Ayyash is credited with advancing the technique of suicide bombing in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The bombings he orchestrated killed approximately 90 Israelis, many of them civilians.[3] He was assassinated by Shin Bet on 5 January 1996.[4]

Ayyash is celebrated by local Palestinian communities who have named streets and other locales in his honor.[1][2][5] His name was also given to the rocket Ayyash-250 produced by Hamas.[6]

Early life[change | change source]

Yahya Ayyash was born on 6 March, 1966, in Rafat. He was the eldest among the three brothers. During his childhood, he showed a strong commitment to religious studies, earning recognition from the Islamic Trust for his Qur'an memorization skills.

Displaying an ability for electrical and mechanical work, Ayyash engaged in repairing radios and television sets as a young boy. Following his high school graduation in 1985, he pursued higher education at Birzeit University in 1987, where he focused on electrical engineering. Ayyash successfully earned a Bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1991.

This educational background laid the foundation for his later involvement in activities related to his engineering expertise, particularly in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where he gained huge fame for his role as a key figure in the Hamas movement.

Involvement in Hamas[change | change source]

Denied permission by Israeli authorities to pursue a master's degree in Jordan, Ayyash faced a turning point in his life. It was during this period that he decided to join Hamas, marking a significant shift in his route towards involvement in the activities of the Palestinian militant organization.

Due to the unavailability of TNT and other powerful explosives in Palestinian territories (mainly the West Bank and Gaza Strip), Yahya Ayyash frequently relied on household items. He often combined acetone, found in nail polish remover, with detergent—both easily available everyday products. When these substances mixed, they created acetone peroxide, an explosive known as "Mother of Satan" due to its unpredictable nature.[7]

Assassination[change | change source]

After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Palestinian Authority began to co-operate more closely with Shin Bet in hunting Ayyash. Shin Bet managed to contact Ayyash's childhood friend Kamil Haddad. Kamil demanded money and israeli identity cards for himself and his wife. After the demand was accepted he agreed to co operate. Shin Bet agents gave Hamad a Mobile phone, and told him it was bugged so they could listen in on Ayyash's conversations. They did not tell Hamad that, in addition to Surveillance devices, it also contained 15 grams of RDX explosive. The phone was handed to Ayyash through Kamil's nephew Osama who was not knowing about his uncle's betrayal.

At around 8 AM on 5 January 1996, Ayyash's father called him. Ayyash picked it up and talked with his father. When the Israeli authorities confirmed it was Ayyash on call they detonated the explosive and thus Ayyash was assassinated.[8]

Aftermath[change | change source]

Following Ayyash's assassination, four suicide bombings took place as a revenge which led to the killing of seventy-eight Israelis between February and March, 1996.

Israeli security services states that,"the attacks were most probably a direct reaction to the assassination of 'Ayyash' [with] no far-reaching political goal."

Israeli press says that soon after betraying Yahya, Haddad family disappeared from Palestine; it also states that he received US$1 million, a fake passport and a visa to the United States.[8]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Katz 2002, pg. 260.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Palestinian Authority still allows and even encourages shaheeds to be turned into role models". Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  3. Katz, 256
  4. Former Shin Bet director Carmi Gillon confirmed the story in the documentary The Gatekeepers.
  5. J.J. Goldberg, 'The Problem With Netanyahu's Response to Jewish Terror,' The Forward 4 August 2015.
  6. "Hamas makes unverified claim it's using new rocket that can hit all of Israel". The Times of Israel.
  7. "Acetone peroxide – ordinary ingredients for an extraordinary explosive". Chemistry World. 20 July 2005. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "How the phone bomb was set up". The Independent. 9 January 1996.