Ahlam Tamimi (Arabic: أحلام التميمي) is a Palestinian woman known for assistance in carrying out the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing. She was convicted by Israel and received multiple life sentences but was released as part of a prisoner exchange. She hosts a television show about Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Tamimi was a journalism student at Birzeit University. Her brother Mohamed, speculates that her fluency in English and the fact that she did not wear a headscarf made her less suspicious to Israeli officials.
After driving and dropping off the suicide bomber at his target, she reported on the bombing on a Palestinian news channel.
Tamimi had placed an explosive device at a grocery store in Jerusalem in July 2001. The device exploded but did not cause damage.
Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing
Tamimi participated in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing, which caused 145 casualties, including 15 fatalities, half of them children. She was 20 years old at the time, and still in university.
On 9 August 2001, Tamimi escorted suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri (Arabic: عز الدين شهيل المصري) to the Sbarro restaurant. She used disguise techniques to deflect attention from herself and al-Masri, wearing a dress that made her appear more like a "Jewish tourist" than an Arab, and using language skills gained in her journalism studies. While al-Masri died in the attack as intended, Tamimi left the area before the detonation.
She then had a second role reporting on the attack in the press, in her part-time journalism job.
Public and personal reaction
In an interview which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on 12 July 2012 (as translated by MEMRI), Tamimi described the reaction of other Palestinians immediately after the bombing:
|“||Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target]... I was feeling quite strange, because I had left [the bomber] 'Izz Al-Din behind, but inside the bus, they were all congratulating one another. They didn't even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings...While I was sitting on the bus, the driver turned on the radio. But first, let me tell you about the gradual rise in the number of casualties. While I was on the bus and everybody was congratulating one another...||”|
After hearing an initial report that "three people were killed" in the bombing, Tamimi stated:
|“||"I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said "three dead," I said: 'Allah be praised'...Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn't. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.||”|
Frimet Roth, the mother of one of Tamimi's murder victims, has criticized Tamimi's release. She said when Tamimi was released along with hundreds of other Arab murderers in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, it felt as if her daughter was murdered all over again.
Lack of remorse
In subsequent interviews, Tamimi commented that she was not sorry for what she had done and does not recognize Israel’s existence. "Despite the fact that I'm sentenced to 16 life sentences I know that we will become free from Israeli occupation and then I will also be free from the prison," she said. Reportedly, when she first learned from a journalist who was interviewing her in jail that she had murdered eight children, not just three as she had initially believed, she just smiled broadly and continued with the interview.
Following her release from prison (see below), Tamimi gave an interview with the Jordanian Ammon News website, which was later posted on YouTube (as translated by MEMRI):
I do not regret what happened. Absolutely not. This is the path. I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack on the Sbarro pizzeria]. This was made possible by Allah. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That's out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.
She has also expressed satisfaction at the sizable death count, including those of children, and previous disappointment when initial reports stated lower counts.
Life sentences and release
She was imprisoned for her role in the events, but was released in an October 2011 prisoner swap for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. At a military tribunal sitting at the Ofer military camp, Tamimi had received 16 consecutive life sentences and an additional 15 years in prison.
At the time of her release, Tamimi was engaged to her second cousin Nizar Tamimi. She moved to Jordan immediately after her release. Her arrival there was attended by hundreds of people, including relatives, many Muslim Brotherhood supporters and trade unionists and citizens. She later met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Cairo, Egypt.
Tamimi claimed in an interview with Al-Jazeera that Israel had asked the “Russian mafia” to kill her and other Palestinian prisoners who were released in the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange agreement, although she did not provide further details.
- Abu Toameh, Khaled (1 March 2012). "Female terrorist hosts talk show on Hamas TV". The Jerusalem Post (web site). http://www.webcitation.org/6IjblJ9OE. Archived from the original on 2013-08-08. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Greenwood, Phoebe. "Palestinian families wait to hear prisoners' fate." The Guardian. Thursday 13 October 2011. Retrieved on 26 May 2013.
- Ehrenreich, Ben. "Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?" The New York Times. 15 March 2013. Retrieved on 26 May 2013.
- Genzlinger, Neil. "Hot House." The New York Times. June 27, 2007. Retrieved on May 26, 2013.
- Haaretz Service. "Hamas militant sentenced for part in 2001 suicide bombing." (Archive) Haaretz. Thursday October 23, 2002. Tishrei 27, 5764. Retrieved on June 5, 2013.
- Released Hamas Terrorist Ahlam Tamimi on Palestinian Public's Delight at Suicide Bombings, MEMRI (transcript), Clip No. 3539, July 12, 2012. video clip with subtitles
- Frimet Roth, "Ten Lessons the Shalit Deal Taught Us," The Times of Israel.
- Sbarro terrorist 'not sorry', Ynetnews, 27 March 2006
- Regards from Amman: The Tamimi Family and the Good Life (Archive of P. 1/Archive of P. 2) by Meir Indor (translator from Hebrew: David B. Greenberg), The Jewish Press, 27 June 2012. Updated 26 January 2013. Originally published in Hebrew in Makor Rishon in June 2012.
- Released Terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, Sentenced to 16 Life Terms in Prison, Takes Pride in the Number of Casualties She Caused and Proclaims: I Would Do It Again Today, MEMRI (transcript), Clip No. 3157, 19 October 2011. (video clip available here.
- Released Hamas Terrorists Pledge More Violence by IPT News, Investigative Project on Terrorism, 27 October 2011.
- Tamimi: I have never regretted what I have done by Shaherah Katatbeh & Anas Damra, Ammonnews.net, 20 October 2011.
- "Israel releases list of Palestinian prisoners to be swapped". CNN. 16 October 2011.Azriel, Guy. "Israel set to begin preparations for swap." CNN. 16 October 2011. Retrieved on 26 May 2013.
- Accueil triomphal pour Ahlam Tamimi en Jordanie par Palestine Info, International Solidarity Movement, 19 October 2011.
- Fallout from Shalit deal continues to divide Israelis by Ben Cohen, JNS.org (reprinted by the SunSentinel.com), 11 July 2012.
- 'Sbarro terrorist: Israel hired mafia to kill me' by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, 4 March 2012.
- Roth, Frimet. "A Palestinian Terrorist." (letter to the editor) The New York Times. 7 July 2007.
- Roth, Frimet. "Mother of Israeli suicide bombing victim: Do not free my daughter's murderer." Haaretz. 16 October 2011.