13 years ago today

13 years ago, a terrorist blew herself up in a restaurant, murdering 21 - including 2 families of 3 generations.

Uzi Baruch,

The Almog family
The Almog family
The family

On the Saturday afternoon of 4 October 2003, at 14:18, a female suicide bomber from Jenin blew herself up inside "Maxim", a beachfront restaurant near the southern entry to Haifa.

At the time of the explosion the restaurant was full of people, particularly families: grandparents, parents, and children. 21 Israelis, including children, were killed, and 58 were wounded.

The restaurant was almost completely destroyed.

The suicide bomber, Hanadi Taysir Jaradat of Jenin, b. 1975, a lawyer, was among the diners at the restaurant. She paid for her meal, which she barely touched, and waited for the Israeli Arab driver who took her to the restaurant to leave. She then stood in the middle of the restaurant and detonated a powerful explosive device carried in a suicide belt on her body.

Jaradat's draw to religion and the wish for revenge

The reason behind the suicide bombing was most likely revenge for the deaths of men close to Jaradat. Her fiancé and cousin, Saleh Suleiman Jaradat, a senior member of PIJ, and her brother, Fadi Taysir Jaradat, had been killed in a clash with IDF troops. After the deaths of the two, Hanadi Jaradat developed a blinding hatred for Israel, wished to avenge the deaths, and was drawn to religion. Saleh was replaced by Amjad Issa Abeidi, who served as head of PIJ's military wing in Jenin.

On the day of the attack Hanadi Jaradat received the suicide belt from her cousin, Sami Suleiman Jaradat, who served as head of PIJ's military infrastructure in the village of Silat El-Harthiyya in Jenin. They assumed that a female English-speaking lawyer would easily enter Israel without arousing suspicion. She only needed to exchange her traditional clothes (a galabiya and a headscarf) for Western ones.

In order to enter Israel, Jaradat contacted Riyyad Mar'i of the village of Dan near Jenin, whom she met during her work as a lawyer. Jaradat told him that she wanted to travel to the Rambam Hospital in Haifa in order to examine the possibility of transferring her ill father there for treatment. Mar'i gave Jaradat the telephone number of an Israeli Arab driver.

Jordanian passport and entry into Israel through a divided village

On the day of the attack Jaradat took a bus from Jenin to Barta, a village divided between the PA (the eastern part) and Israel (the western part). She had a Jordanian passport and showed it to the bus driver, claiming that she was a Jordanian tourist wishing to visit her relatives in Umm Al-Fahm. Jaradat asked for the driver's help.

With the assistance of his relatives, the driver helped Jaradat get to the main square of Western Barta (the Israeli part of the village). There, after coordination and verification by Mar'i, Jaradat was picked up by the driver, Jamal Mahajna, b. 1956, of Umm Al-Fahm, owner of a blue Volkswagen Transporter.

Jaradat and Mahajna began driving toward Haifa. Jaradat took off her traditional clothes in the vehicle and remained in western attire. During the journey Mar'i checked that Mahajna had picked up his passenger, and they agreed upon the price. The vehicle tarried at Hillel Yaffe Hospital near Hadera, since Jaradat claimed that she wanted to know if her father was hospitalized there. After a short while, the vehicle went on to Haifa.

Near the southern entry to Haifa Jaradat asked Mahajna to stop at a restaurant, claiming that she was hungry. The two stopped near "Maxim" and went in to eat. After finishing the meal, Jaradat blew herself up in the center of the crowded restaurant.

A short time later, the PIJ HQ in Syria claimed responsibility for the attack and stated the suicide bomber's full name, age (29), and profession (lawyer).

Arrest of the driver less than 24 hours after the attack

On 5 October 2003, at 01:50, ISA interrogators and the police arrested Jamal Mahajna in his home. In his interrogation Mahajna stated that he ate at "Maxim" in Haifa that day and heard an explosion after leaving the restaurant. At the first stage, he had not confessed to having links with the suicide bomber.

Later, after confessing to having driven Jaradat to the restaurant, Mahajna changed his statement and claimed that he was inside the restaurant and was in fact wounded during the explosion. He supposedly left the scene and drove home, for fear of being lynched if he stayed and was identified as an Arab. However, no signs of injuries were found on Mahajna's body.

Mahajna confessed that he arrived home, took off the front seat covers and asked his wife to wash them. He also stated that he burned his clothes, supposedly because they were covered in blood and ashes. Yet why did he not simply throw them away? It is more likely that Mahajna wished to get rid of evidence and actually burned Jaradat's clothes – the galabiya and headscarf – that she left in the vehicle. It must be said that several weeks prior to the attack Mahajna was summoned to an interview with an ISA officer, who warned him about the dangers of transporting residents of the Palestinian Territories with no legal permit to stay in Israel.

Summary

The Haifa district court found Mahajna guilty of causing death and injury by negligence, as well as transporting an illegal infiltrator. Mahajna was not found guilty of being an accessory to murder, since the court was not convinced that he knew of Jaradat's intentions to execute an attack. Mahajna was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Sami Jaradat and Amjad Abeidi were tried in the Samaria military court for dispatching Hanadi Jaradat to execute the attack. Sami Jaradat was sentenced to 50 years in prison and 21 life sentences, while Abeidi was sentenced to 50 years in prison and 23 life sentences, as he was also responsible for dispatching suicide bombers to two other attacks: in Sde Trumot (19 June 2003, one Israeli killed) and in Kfar Yavetz (7 July 2003, one Israeli killed).

Jaradat had taken advantage of being a good-looking and educated woman and used a clever cover story (an ill father who needs to be transferred to an Israeli hospital) for empathy. These factors allowed her to infiltrate into Israel and travel to the scene of the attack without arousing suspicion. The fact that Jaradat entered the restaurant and sat down to eat, all the while carrying a suicide belt, is a sign of her truly chilling composure.




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