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Inside a Terrorist's Mind

Inside a Terrorist's Mind

Prior to his assassination, Salah Shehadeh discussed the logistics of terror operations against Israelis.


On July 23, 2002, the IDF dropped a bomb on a Gaza apartment building, killing terrorist leader Salah Shehadeh, commander of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

The following interview with Shehadeh was published by Islam Online on May 29, 2002. presents the interview as a curious look into a terrorist's mind.

Q: How do you choose who will carry out a martyrdom operation?

Shehadeh: The choice is made according to four criteria: First, devout religious observance. Second, we verify that the young man complies with his parents' wishes and is loved by his family, and that his martyrdom will not [adversely] affect family life ― that is, he is not the head of the family and he has siblings, as we will not take an only child.

Third, his ability to carry out the task assigned [to] him, and to understand its gravity; and fourth, his martyrdom should encourage others to carry out martyrdom operations and encourage Jihad in the hearts of people. We always prefer unmarried [men]. It is the regional leadership of the military apparatus of the Hamas movement that proposes his candidacy, and then decides whether to accept him.

Q: How do you account for the stream of youths [coming] to join the ranks of perpetrators of martyrdom operations? And does this attest to [mental] health, or to escape from the frustration and disappointment among the Palestinians?

Shehadeh: The stream of youths [who seek to] attain martyrdom shows [mental] health and the awareness of Palestinian society, and is not a mistake or an escape from a situation of despair or frustration. Many people come to Jihad, and they are willing to lay down their souls ― which is the most precious thing a man has. There is a vast difference between someone who sacrifices money or an offering, and someone who sacrifices his soul for the sake of Allah to bring happiness to the nation, and to remove its torment and distress.

Nevertheless, we cannot provide everyone with a martyrdom operation because the targets are limited and the enemy positions we want to reach are highly fortified. If some of the youths do not follow the military apparatus's instructions, and [set out on operations on their own] without being linked officially to this apparatus, this proves that the [entire] nation has become a nation of Jihad on the threshold of liberation, and that it rejects humiliation and submission.

Q: How does the military apparatus choose a target?

Shehadeh: We have surveillance groups whose role is to monitor Israeli and settler patrols and the movement of the enemy on the border. We utilize every breach we find in the enemy's security fence. Afterwards we define the target and the nature of the assault on it, whether it is a settlement, a military post, a military vehicle, or anything else. The target is filmed, and then [the video] is shown to a committee appointed by the General Staff of the Military Operations.

After the target is approved, the martyrdom operation's perpetrator is trained... Then the operation is ready to go, after a group of experts approves the plan and determines the factors for its success or failure.

Q: What about killing Israeli citizens?

Shehadeh: We do not target children, the elderly, and places of worship, although these places of worship incite to murdering Muslims. Similarly, we have not targeted schools, because we do not give orders to kill children. The same goes for hospitals, although this is easy for us, and attainable.

We act according to the principles of Jihad to which we adhere. Our motto is: “We are not fighting the Jews because they are Jews, but because they occupy our land. We are not fighting them because of their religion but because they have usurped our land.” If we kill a child it is not intentional...

Q: How much does a martyrdom operation cost?

Shehadeh: The cost of an operation varies... Attack operations with automatic weapons cost the price of the weapon, which hold at least 250 rounds, and of the ammunition, and the price of about 10 hand grenades. But some of the operations cost much more and include transporting [the perpetrator]... buying a car, and bribing Jewish collaborators. There are operations that cost a great deal ― between $3,500-$50,000, in accordance with the target.

Q: How did you develop the weapons that the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades have come to excel at manufacturing, such as the Al-Qassam 1 and Al-Qassam 2 and the and the Al-Bana [rockets]?

Shehadeh: ...We have scientists who specialize in weapons development, who are today studying and conducting experiments on the Al-Bana rocket, which is a combination of an RPG and a LAW [light anti-tank weapon], and differs from the Al-Qassam 2 because it is designed for moderately thick armor. Hand grenades are manufactured to meet the needs of the apparatus and its members, and they have proved their efficiency, and [even] the Zionist Defense Ministry attests that they are powerful grenades.

The rocket explosives are made from simple raw materials. Even the women can make them at home.

All the grenades and rockets are locally manufactured, easily and simply. The explosives in the Al-Qassam 1 and 2 and the Al Bana are made from simple raw materials. [Even] the women can make them at home...

Q: What about the organizational structure of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades?

Shehadeh: In general, the brigades are a small army subject to political decisions, like any [other] army in the world. It has all the kinds of divisions and structures that an army has. We are soldiers. The political apparatus does not tell us, 'Do such and such' and 'Carry out this or that operation'; the political apparatus is sovereign over the military apparatus, and a decision of the political [echelon] takes precedence over the decision of the military [echelon], without intervening in military operations.

The number of dead depends on the will of Allah.

The success of an operation is not defined by the number of enemy dead, but by the extent to which our Jihad fighters managed to reach the target, and by the operation's execution. Good planning is vital for the operation's success. The number of dead depends on the will of Allah.

Q: What are the obstacles that the Al-Qassam Brigades face?

Sh'hadeh: The most significant obstacles are the scarcity of good-quality weapons, such as anti-aircraft and long-range missiles.

Another significant obstacle is the haze obscuring the political position of the National [Palestinian] Authority. This causes confusion in the military wing [because] it does not set a [clear] position regarding the military operations ― that is, whether it is for them or against them. Is it an authority for national liberation, or an authority for autonomy? This matter confuses many Jihad fighters.

In addition, weapons prices have been raised by the bloodsucker arms dealers, so the price of an M-16 has reached $5,000, and each of its bullets now costs $1.50, and a Kalashnikov costs $2,000, and each of its bullets costs $4.00.

The military apparatus has managed to meet the challenge of weapons scarcities by collecting donations from people who love supporting the path of Jihad for the sake of Allah. Similarly, the movement has succeeded in manufacturing some of the intermediate weaponry, thus reducing costs. The cost of a rocket [made by the movement] is less than 1 percent of its cost if we had to buy it.

August 3, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) cm mcclintock, August 14, 2002 12:00 AM

What do I think....I am totally disgusted. This past shabbat in shul during Torah discussion, the subject of Israel and terriorism caused by the Palestinians came up. (people here I've noticed try to avoid this discussion, someone might have to show a backbone.) The subject came up by the bat mitzvah, herself, so no one could change the subject. I was ashamed. It is so easy for Jews and others here in the United States to say "well Israel needs to except peace with the Palestinians, and that this needs to be apart of Tsuvah for High Holidays. I, and a friend who had suvived a bloody attack some time back and an older gentlemen, who had been to Israel several timesspoke out. Many aren't getting it here. Israel is fighting for it's existence. Many Americans and American Jews would have a whole new perspective if they were on a bus that blew up, or were covered in innocent blood. We are fighting a people who do not share our value of human life. Who aren't on the same plane of reasoning.
To put the peace process only on our shoulders is wrong because too many people DON"T believe what your essay describes as the inside of a terrorist mind. It is sick, it is wrong and yes their mental health needs to be seriously checked with these terrorist. Too many people don't want accept the mentality they are coming from. They are in denial. So were people during the Holocaust. But it happened,and people are still in denial. When one Jews life is in danger, all of our lives our in danger.

(7) Rex Rambo, August 12, 2002 12:00 AM

Clever lie of terrorist propoganda.

I can sum up my opion of the late Salah Shehadeh in two words: good riddance!

(6) Anonymous, August 11, 2002 12:00 AM

It is unfortunate that there are so many who cannot see evil, and therefore think that such evil ideas and ideologies must be insane. Insanity is an illness, and we must have sympathy for those who are ill. Evil is a curse, and only repentance can relieve it, only He who imposed the curse can remove it.

I agree with those who say the Land of Israel is not merely a safe haven, that the Jews should have because they deserve it. It is a divine gift from the only one who can give such things, and we do not have it because we deserve it, we have it because it is our birthright. We cannot give it to the children of Ishmael; it is not ours to give. If we choose, we can share it, as we would with a brother or a cousin, but only if they understand that the way things must be.

Until we stand up for the right to be stewards of this gift from Hashem, we will always have trouble with evil, and the entire world will be in peril. As Jews we are obligated with repair of the world in exchange for the many gifts we have been given. Fulfilling our obligations is the way to combat evil by doing good- and the only way to peace.

(5) Ulrich L. M. Austin, August 9, 2002 12:00 AM

Clearly Points at Arafat as the Jihad leader.

His comments regarding the hierarchy of the Jihad movement clearly states that the military does what the Politicians tell them to. We all know that the "Politician" they are speaking of is Arafat. This article CLEARLY points the finger directly at Arafat. I hope that the world will finally see what a two faced liar and coward he is and that the next time the Israeli Army has him surrounded, they will finish the job. Perhaps then peace, or some semblance of it, can begin to take root.

(4) tom, August 9, 2002 12:00 AM


I can't even believe this article, the fact that this lunatic is a leader, the fact that a society exists on this earth that would provide for a man like this to be a leader - it is a disgrace. They will all burn in hell - they have to.. How can you even deal with these people - you can't. My heart goes out to you all, until the numbers of the dead surpass the unfortunate number, you're going to have to drop a very large bomb and rebuild the whole the thing..

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