On March 4th, 1996, Abdel-Rahim Ishaq, a 24-year-old Palestinian resident of Ramallah, detonated a 45-pound bomb packed with nails strapped to his body outside the Dizengoff Center in downtown Tel Aviv, killing himself and 13 unarmed Israeli civilians. Initially thought to be unaffiliated with a specific terrorist organization, he was eventually affiliated by a caller to an Israeli radio station show as a member of Hamas.
Ishaq wanted to enter the mall and cause maximum damage but was deterred by the large presence of Israeli police officers near the entrance to Tel Aviv’s busiest mall. He instead decided to turn back to a busy intersection outside and set off the device. His actions were classified by Palestinian officials as an act of bravery, defining him as a martyr.
2/ Many in the crowd were children dressed in costumes for the holiday. The bomber, turned away from the entrance of the mall, went into the middle of a nearby intersection and set off a 20kg nail bomb (filled with nails, designed to do the greatest amount of harm)— Today in Israel's History (@TodayIsrael) March 4, 2020
The blast threw pedestrians into the air and broke roughly all windows in the 200-yard vicinity. The attack was part of a larger series of attacks and marked the fourth terrorist act in just nine days, which killed 60 Israelis in total. The suicide attack occurs on the eve of Purim, a time in which thousands of children in costumes walk around the streets and celebrate the festive holiday. Five of the slain Israelis in the Dizengoff attack are younger than 13.
The Israeli public was outraged, and large protests erupt against Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who is in the middle of an election campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu and is considered somewhat responsible due to his part in the Oslo Accords and negotiations with Palestinian organizations behind the many heinous terrorist attacks.
A reminder...#OnThisDay (March 3 AND March 4) in 1996: Two Hamas suicide bombings -one in Jerusalem; one in Tel Aviv slaughtering over 30 Israelis (Shimon Peres was PM) @JTANews "On Purim Eve, Hamas Strikes at Busy Tel Aviv Shopping Mall" https://t.co/ZQqKZ2jW9G #Hamas #Israel pic.twitter.com/Dq7lXj2rY9— Washington Views (@WashingtonViews) March 3, 2023
Some people call for Peres to resign. Peres institutes security measures that effectively end all Israeli employment of Palestinians and also orders a large-scale crackdown on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank, but he loses the election to Netanyahu, who promised more decisive actions against terrorism and was wholly against the Oslo Accords, in May 1996. Peres’ defeat marks the end of any real desire and hopefulness for progress in the already stalled, controversial, Oslo-related negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
26 years after the Dizengoff suicide bomb attacker struck, another Palestinian nationalist from the city of Jenin, attacked the busy Dizengoff street in Tel Aviv on April 7th, 2022; this time using a semi-automatic rifle as his weapon of choice. Fathi Khazem killed three unarmed Israeli citizens and injured six.