Terrorist Suicide Operation Analysis

CSC 1985



In the second half of the twentieth century terriorism has

become a critical issue all over the world. It is no longer

limited to small and remote countries or to historically explosive

regions such as the Middle East. Terrorism has managed to flourish

in almost every democracy in the world: the PLO in Lebanon and

Israel, the Corsican movement in France, Armenian terrorists in

Turkey and North America, the Provisional IRA in Ireland and Great

Britain, the Red Brigade in Italy, the Red Army in Japan, the

Baader-Meinhof Gang in West Germany, the Libyan state-sponsored

"death squads" in the Middle East and Europe, the Tupamoros in

Uruguay, and recently the Maoist Shining Path movement in Peru and

the Shiite fundamentalist groups in Iran and Lebanon. Most of

these organizations have found it convenient to cooperate with each

other, forming what the author Claire Sterling has accurately

depicted as a "terror network." These groups do not restrict their

operations to their original country or area and have spread a mesh

of terror over the entire world. A quick glance at the map of

terror in the world shows that the groups concentrate on and appear

to cooperate to some extent on missions in democratic countries,

countries where public opinion has significant influence on

goverment policy.

Terrorism has become a weapon by which the fear of masses of

innocent civilians exerts a pressure on the governments responsible

for their safety, a pressure which often forces unwilling

compromises with the terrorists and which yields them an indirect

but quite potent form of political power. What motivates groups

towards terrorism? We can classify terrorist groups as follows:

Nationalist motivations (e.g. the PLO), ideological motivations

(e.g. Marxist groups such as elements of the IRA and Maoist groups

such as the Shining Path), religious motivations (e.g. Shiite

funadmentalist groups), and motivations that extend the power of an

existing nation state (e.g. the Libyan "death squads"). Some

groups appear to have a narrow focus, such as the abortion clinic

shutdowns attempted by some pro-life groups in the U.S. or the

Shiite groups in Iran and Lebanon. Other manifest several

tendencies at once such as the Marxists national liberation groups.

During a June, 1977, conference on international terrorism held in

France, Professor Dror of Israel's Hebrew University defined the

six trends that have assisted the growth of terrorism into a first

degree, strategic problem in the second half of the 20th century:

1. The rapid development and proliferation of all kinds of

weapons and the ability of terrorist organizations to acquire large

quantities of efficient and destructive devices.

2. The modern socio-technological system which has developed

and created numerous highly vulnerable targets such as

transportation nets, power grids, and dense concentrations of


3. The development of mass media which now permits terrorists

rapid and direct access into people's homes, allowing them free

advertising of their goals, grievances, and power. In a sense, the

media have transformed many butchers into media stars, often

permitting greater media access to the Daniel Ortegas of the world

than to the Sister Theresas.

4. Modern transportation, especially aircraft, which serve as

a tool for rapid evacuation and mobility for the terrorists. It

also permits the selection of targets which are diverse and widely

separated, allowing the PLO in Lebanon to hit targets such as the

Lod Airport massacre using Japanese Red Army terrorists flown in on

commercial jets.

5. Controversies and disagreements in the international system

which result in either active or passive support. This is

especially troublesome with countries which behave as if they were

paranoid creations instead of national legal entities and who use

terrorists as tools for their political, ideological, or religious

goals. Examples here include the Soviet Union, Libya, Syria, Cuba,

and Iran, who support avrious groups with funds, weapons, training

instructors and bases, and even diplomatic cover.

6. Finally, the Western emphasis on a tradition of political

liberalism and a sensitivity to human rights issues. While

acknoledging the positive aspects of these traits, it must be

accepted that they place a great burden on Western nations' ability

to effectively counter terrorism.

Terrorism, like any major sociological phenomenon, is a very

broad and complex subject. In this research paper, I chose to deal

with two dimensions of terrorism found in the PLO: terrorist

training and suicide missions which spring from nationalist

motivations. The concept of premeditated suicide training and

operations is strange and quite difficult for most individuals

brought up in a Western Free World culture. For that purpose, I

will use an operation conducted by the "Fatah", a component of the

PLO, on 4-5 March 1975 in Tel-Aviv... the "Savoy operations." The

goal of the analysis of this operation is to familiarize the reader

with this special type of terrorism so as to provide a better

understanding and knowledte of how to deal with this plague of

modern societies. Knowledge such as this is a key ingredient to

success in military operations so it is perhaps fitting here that

we remember the words of a classic Chinese military thinker seen

through the pen of his modern day counterpart, Mao Tse-tung:

"We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the

great military expert of ancient China, 'Know your enemy and know

yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.'"

Each terrorist operation is different, unique due to the

familiar characteristics of battle and men. Thus, one Fatah

mission will be somewhat different than another. I have chosen a

"typical successive" suicide operations but again I must emphasize

that is only one example from Fatah and not necessarily typical of

other terrorist organizations.

The analysis of this operation has been conducted from a

military perspective and the investigation was only looking at the

terrorist side of the operation. In order to understand the

motivations of these terrorists, it is impossible to avoid touching

on some broader issues such as the political aspects of the PLO. I

will attempt to avoid these issues, including the social psychology

of the Palestinians, to the extent possible. These issues are

naturally a part of the operations mainly as they affect the morale

and motivation of the terrorists. In this work of limited scope,

they will be dealt with as necessary.

The first part of this research paper will describe the

training of the PLO: military, political, ideological, and

psychological. I will examine this as a generic topic, without

tying it specifically to suicide type missions. This will provide

the reader with some background on terrorism, the PLO as an

organization, and its people. The second part of the paper will

analyze the specific operation which occurred on 4-5 March 1975 and

which was described by the Israeli State Radio as follows:

"On the night of March 4th, 1975, at 11:00 PM eight terrorists

in two teams were landed by rubber boat on Tel-Aviv's beach.

Shooting and throwing grenades, they captured the Savoy Motel near

the center of the city, capturing the guests as hostages. Early in

the morning of March 5th, an Israeli paratroop unit penetrated into

the motel, killing seven terrorists and capturing one. Five

hostages were freed and five were killed by the terrorists. A few

hours later the ship that transported the terrorists was captured

and its crew (including another terrorist commander) were taken as



Background of the PLO

The PLO was founded during a convention in East Jerusalem in

May, 1964. In June, 1964, the PLO declared its resolutions,

including the goal of the liberation of Palestine: "Palestine is

an Arab homeland." The so-called Palestinian problem stems from

1948 and the Israeli War of Independence when 600,000 Palestinian

refugees spread over the Arab World during the conflict with the

Arab countries. Most of these refugees found temporary homes in

Jordan and Egypt. The Fatah was also founded in 1964 and was

initially sponsored by Syria. Fatah is the largest and most

influential group in the PLO. Since February, 1969, Yasser Arafat

has served as the Head of the PLO. See Figure 1 for a current PLO

Organizational Chart.

Since its inception, the PLO has conducted its fight with

Israel using both political and military means and supported by all

of the Arab states. The resulting guerrilla war with Israel peaked

in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon, and the Israeli Defense Forces

(IDF) destroyed the PLO's bases and forced them to be evacuated to

other Arab states. The war between the Palestinians and the Jews

is not just the fighting of two nations over the same piece of land

but also involves a battle between two distince cultures. The PLO

represents an oriental society with its traditions and habits.

Israel is basically a Western-style democratic society on a

socialist model. This last sentence, emphasizing the cultural as

well as the national basis of the conflict, should be kept foremost

in the reader's mind as he/she follows the rest of this paper.

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Terrorism as a form of political expression has no

meaning unless it is supported by physical and moral terrorism.

Throughout the century until the mid-1960's terrorists

believed that they had only to give a man a bomb or a revolver

and encourage him to throw it or fire it at "the enemy." These

agents provocateur gave their agents no training in how or where

to use their weapons and it was not even considered essential

that they should know how they worked. Fatah was the world's

first organization to embark upon systematic training for

terrorism and the other groups within the PLO soon followed.

From the military point of view, such training made good sense:

for terrorisim to thrive, it must be seen to be successful and

greater success could only come from efficient training.

Training includes few different areas. In this work, I

will deal with the following areas of training: military

trainings, political and ideological training, and psychologist

training. Each area of training is completed with the other