August 10, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9490

20 Years Later: Reports And Clips From The MEMRI Archives On Jerusalem Sbarro Pizzeria Suicide Bombing That Killed 15, Including Two Americans

August 10, 2021
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9490

Twenty years ago, on August 9, 2001, a suicide bomber killed 15 civilians, including four children, and wounded 130 at the Sbarro pizzeria in central Jerusalem. Two of those killed were U.S. nationals. MEMRI published numerous translations of reactions in the Arab world to the bombing.

Hamas terrorist Ahlam Al-Tamimi, who orchestrated the bombing, was arrested and sentenced to 16 life sentences in Israel but was released in the 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange. Since then, she has lived freely in Jordan.

In March 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Al-Tamimi was being charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the U.S., resulting in death. She has been on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list since 2017, and there is a $5 million reward for information leading to her arrest. There have been continuing efforts in the U.S., by lawmakers and others, to pressure Jordan for her extradition. These included a May 2020 letter by Members of Congress warning Jordan of sanctions if she were not extradited.[1] In a March 28, 2019 Al-Jazeera interview, translated by MEMRI, she said that being in Jordan gives her strength because Jordan does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S. and has refused to extradite her.[2] It was reported in March 2021 that Interpol had dropped an international warrant for her arrest.[3] 

Al-Tamimi was also a guest at the 2012 International Conference in Support of Palestinian Prisoners in the Jails of the Zionist Occupation in Tunisia, along with other Palestinian terrorists who had been released from Israeli prisons in prisoner exchanges. The conference was held under the auspices of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.[4]

Below are MEMRI reports and MEMRI TV clips on the Sbarro bombing and on Ahlam Al-Tamimi and U.S. extradition efforts.

MEMRI Translations Published Following The Bombing

In an August 14 op-ed in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, in which Egyptian journalist Fahmi Huweidi wrote: "I cannot hide my happiness about the martyrdom operation that took place in Jerusalem last Thursday." (MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 265, I Cannot Hide My Happiness about the Martyrdom Operation that Took Place in Jerusalem. An Op-Ed in Egypt's Leading Government Daily, September 2, 2001).

A few days later, MEMRI translated a call by Al-Ahram, in its August 17 editorial titled "A Message to the People of Palestine," for Palestinians to kill Israelis "wherever you may find them." (Egyptian Government Daily Al-Akhbar Calls on Palestinians to Kill Israelis, August 22, 2001).

Also in the days following the attack, MEMRI translated statements by the Palestinian Press Agency WAFA calling on Palestinians to refrain from suicide bombings and mortar attacks and to return to the "popular intifada" using only stones. The calls were also published in the Palestinian Authority Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily. (PA Press Agency (WAFA) Calls to Use Stones Only and Refrain from Attacking Civilians Inside Israel, August 12, 2001)

MEMRI translated an August 17 Friday sermon broadcast live on Palestinian TV from the Sheikh Ijlin mosque in Gaza. In it, preacher Sheikh Isma'il Aal Ghadwan called for jihad and martyrdom, telling worshippers: "It is the duty of the Islamic nation to open the gates of jihad." (PA TV Friday Sermon Calls for Jihad and Martyrdom, August 24, 2021)

On August 23, MEMRI published translations of statements by Fatah faction leaders following the bombing, promising that "we have prepared thousands, tens of thousands, of [future] martyrs," and that "the number of shootings at the occupation will increase to 5000 to 1,000 shootings per day," and that "in the coming days there will be more operations in retaliation for the Israeli massacres." (Statements by Heads of Fateh Factions, August 23, 2001)

Reaction To U.S. Requests For Al-Tamimi's Extradition

"No Jordanian Will Agree To Extradite This Jordanian Girl In Whom We Take Pride"; The Two Americans Killed In Bombing Were Legitimate Targets

The May 2020 letter by Congressmen warning Jordan of sanctions if it failed to extradite Al-Tamimi was a topic of discussion on a show on Jordan's Yarmouk TV. Host Omar Aysara said that "no Jordanian will agree to extradite this Jordanian girl in whom we take pride and whom we value and respect. Palestinian international law expert Dr. Anis Al-Qasem said that the two Americans killed in the attack were not civilians and were considered combatants, and were thus legitimate targets.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Al-Tamimi In Interview With Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Publication: "The Jihad Must Continue"

After a Jordanian court, in March 2017, rejected the U.S. request for her extradition, Al-Tamimi gave an interview to the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood mouthpiece Al-Sabil, in which she said she had not known about the extradition request, nor that two Americans were killed in her attack. She added: "As long as the Zionists remain on our land, the jihad must continue." (Palestinian-Jordanian Terrorist Ahlam Al-Tamimi To Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood Mouthpiece: 'As Long As The Zionists Remain On Our Land, The Jihad Must Continue,' March 23, 2017.

MEMRI Reports And Clips On Ahlam Al-Tamimi

Following her release from Israeli prison in the 2011 prisoner exchange, Ahlam Al-Tamimi she gave a series of interviews on Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV; in one, she recalled Palestinians' increasing delight at hearing, on the radio, about the rising death toll of the suicide bombing she had just helped carry out, and in another, she expressed her pride in her actions and said that she would "do it again today."

Below are MEMRI TV clips of Al-Tamimi.

Hamas Terrorist Ahlam Al-Tamimi On Palestinians' Delight At Suicide Bombings: "Everybody Was Congratulating One Another... Everyone Was Happy"

Following are excerpts from an interview with Tamimi that aired on Hamas Al-Aqsa TV on July 12, 2012 (view the clip on the MEMRI TV website here).

Interviewer: "Sixteen Zionists were killed [in the suicide bombing you helped carry out]. Was the sound of the explosion...?"

Ahlam Tamimi: "It was very loud. The mujahid Abdallah Barghouti did a perfect job producing the guitar [containing the bomb], and the results amazed everybody, thanks to Allah.


"Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem's Old City] 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, they said on the radio that there had been a martyrdom attack at the Sbarro restaurant, and that three people were killed. 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.'"

Interviewer: "Was it an Israeli radio station or a Palestinian one?"

Ahlam Tamimi: "That station was in the Zionist language, and the driver was translating for the passengers.


"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. They didn't even know that I was among them.

"On the way back [to Ramallah], we passed a Palestinian police checkpoint, and the policemen were laughing. One of them stuck his head in and said: 'Congratulations to us all.' Everybody was happy."

Hamas Terrorist Ahlam Tamimi Takes Pride In The Number Of Casualties She Caused, Proclaims "I Would Do It Again Today"

Following are excerpts from an interview with Tamimi that was posted online on October 19, 2011 (view the clip on the MEMRI TV website here):

Interviewer: "If you could go back in time, would you carry out such a large-scale attack?"

Ahlam Tamimi: "Of course. 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."

Ahlam Al-Tamimi Recounts Her Role in Terror Attacks in Jerusalem in the Early 2000s (Archival)

In a two-part interview that aired in June 2012 on Kuwait's Iqraa TV, Al-Tamimi recounted her roles and missions in a Hamas terror cell that carried out attacks in Israel in the early 2000s. She told the interviewer how she had located schools and shops as potential bombing targets and how she had planted a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket, and how she had used her journalist union card to get in and out of Jerusalem and that she had surveilled civilian targets – such as schools and restaurants – in an effort to assure maximum casualties. The two-part interview also posted on YouTube.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Tamimi: "I was a journalism student, in the political science track, and I was working in the media and the press. This allowed me to become a member of the Palestinian Journalists Union. The union card enabled me to enter Jerusalem in order to conduct interviews. This drew the attention of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. They realized that I could enter and leave Jerusalem, without the knowledge of the Zionists."


Host: "So you would go in and out in your capacity as a journalist. Nice."

Tamimi: "Yes. This was one of God's miracles and facilitations. This made them ask me to join the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, and I immediately accepted.


"I was assigned three missions. The first mission was to spot locations suitable for Jihadi operations. I would go to Jerusalem and walk around in the areas frequented by the Zionists.


"I would go around these areas, and as part of my first mission, I would surveil suitable locations, such as shops, malls, schools, and restaurants – any suitable target for a Jihadi operation. I would submit reports to the cell commander, and this report would be studied statistically: How many Israelis enter a certain location in one hour? I would sit there, look at my watch, and count the number of people who entered the place in an hour. I would calculate it and report that if the operation were to take place at a certain hour, the number of Israeli casualties would be at least 30 and could even reach 50, because during this specific hour, 70 Israelis entered the place.

"I would also check what the most suitable hours were. For example, a restaurant is frequented by Zionists mostly during lunchtime, a school in the morning... There was an optimal time to carry out the Jihadi operation, and I would write all of this in the report, which I sent to the cell commander. The cell commander, Abdallah Al-Barghouti, is now in solitary confinement. Everybody knows him, but I knew it was Al-Barghouti only after my arrest, and after he was arrested and said that he was the military commander. Due to the clandestine nature of our work, we didn't say our names. But after the arrests, it was all published.

"My second mission was to carry out Jihadi operations. I was assigned this mission. I would take explosive devices, which were prepared by Abdallah Al-Barghouti. I would choose the shape of the device, according to the most popular shopping items among the Zionists. I would submit a report that the most popular drink is this, that or the other, or that the item that sells the most is this or that. The explosive device would be produced in the shape of that item. On the outside, it looked like I was carrying one of their items, but on the inside, it was a time bomb.

"I learned how to operate one of those explosive devices, and I took it to a supermarket in our occupied Jerusalem. It was the King George supermarket. I had previously conducted surveillance of that supermarket. I placed the explosive device, bought something, and left normally. The device was set to go off on the hour. I placed it, activated it, and left the place. The supermarket completely exploded. At the time, the Israelis said that nobody had been killed or wounded.

"This was the beginning of the Intifada, and it was normal for them to conceal the number of casualties, in order to avoid panic among the Zionists."


letter-demanding-extradition-of-ahlam-tamimi, May 4, 2020;
bank-e2b94cbfe5db2d9ca6d5d747323b909e, June 16, 2020;
6e5daf38265c41dc2999b52bf3638396, July 14, 2020;

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