This chapter examines the suicide missions (SMs) related to the Arab-Israeli conflict that took place from 1981 to December 2003. SMs are a relatively recent phenomenon in the Middle East, with only sporadic cases before 1981. They are also relatively concentrated within certain territorial limits. In the two decades under examination, the great majority of the SMs related to the Arab-Israeli conflict took place in three geographic areas: Israel, the Occupied Territories (Gaza Strip and the West Bank), and Lebanon (primarily in the south). This concentration is largely due to the outcome of the 1967 war, the so-called Six Day War. Israel managed to sign effective peace agreements with its neighbours in the south (Egypt) and in the east (Jordan), but not in the north (Syria). Hence a shift in the conflict towards the Occupied Territories and Lebanon, the latter squeezed between the Israeli army in the south and Syrian influence in the north.
Furthermore, several experts (Karmon 2000; Morris 2002; Margalit 2001) believe that the war between the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Israeli army provided Palestinians with a crucial model. The link between the two conlicts (Israel against Lebanon and Israel against Palestine) became very direct in the winter of 1992–3, when Israel deported 415 Islamic activists to Lebanon, where SMs had already a long history. All this makes it difficult to separate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the wider conflict between Israel and the insurgent organizations operating in Lebanon. SMs began in Lebanon, and from there they spread.
There is no single geographic or geopolitical term for the area that embraces Israel, the Occupied Territories, and Lebanon. I will call it for convenience the 'Middle East area' (ME area), even though the territory under examination, while wider than historical Palestine, is far smaller than the Middle East as a whole.