Yahya Abd-al-Latif Ayyash (Arabic: يحيى عياش; 6 March 1966 – 5 January 1996) was the chief bombmaker of Hamas and the leader of the West Bank battalion of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. In that capacity, he earned the nickname "the Engineer" (Arabic: المهندس, transliterated al-Muhandis). Ayyash is credited with advancing the technique of suicide bombing in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The bombings he orchestrated killed approximately 90 Israelis, many of them civilians.[1] He was assassinated by Shin Bet on 5 January 1996.[2]

Yahya Ayyash
Born6 March 1966
Died5 January 1996(1996-01-05) (aged 29)
Cause of deathAssassination
Other namesThe Engineer
Alma materBirzeit University
Movement Hamas

Ayyash is celebrated by local Palestinian communities who have named streets and other locales in his honor.[3][4][5] His name was also given to the rocket Ayyash-250 produced by Hamas.[6]

Early life


Ayyash was born in Rafat on 6 March 1966,[7] the eldest of three brothers. As a child, he received an award from the Islamic Trust for his talent in memorizing the Quran.[8]

As a boy, Ayyash's hobby was repairing radios and television sets. After graduating from high school in 1985, he entered Birzeit University in 1987. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1991.[9]

Described as "well educated, ambitious, and soft-spoken," Ayyash hailed from a relatively affluent family. He was married with one child. He planned to study for a master's degree in Jordan, but soon after being denied a student visa, he joined Hamas.[10]

Work for Hamas


Ayyash built the bombs used in a number of Hamas suicide attacks: the Mehola Junction bombing, the Afula Bus massacre, the Hadera central station massacre, the Tel Aviv bus 5 massacre,[11] the Egged bus 36 bombing, the Ramat Gan bus 20 bombing, and the Jerusalem bus 26 bombing. As part of a strategic alliance between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ayyash built the bombs used by Islamic Jihad at the Beit Lid massacre.[12]

Unable to obtain TNT and other high explosives in the Palestinian territories, Ayyash used readily available household products such as a combination of acetone and detergent. When combined, these substances form acetone peroxide, an explosive known as "Mother of Satan" for its instability.[13]

Ayyash came to the attention of Israeli security forces after a failed bombing attempt in Ramat Ef'al. Following a high-speed chase, three would-be Hamas suicide bombers were arrested by police. When police inspected their car, they found it rigged with a bomb—five 12-kilogram (26 lb) gasoline tanks filled to capacity, connected to an acetone peroxide-based detonator. After evacuating the area, sappers used a robot armed with a shotgun to shoot the detonator in the hopes of defusing it but it blew up, causing a massive explosion. Police investigators said that if this had happened in a crowded area, hundreds would have been killed.[13] Under interrogation, the three bombers revealed Ayyash's identity.[14]



After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Palestinian Authority began to cooperate more closely with the Shin Bet.[15][13] The Shin Bet learned that Ayyash often spent the night in the Gaza City home of Osama Hamad, a childhood friend whose uncle, Kamil Hamad, was known to the authorities.[16]

In October 1995, Kamil Hamad met with Shin Bet operatives, demanding money and Israeli identity cards for himself and his wives. After they threatened to inform on him, he agreed to cooperate. Shin Bet agents gave him a cell phone and told him it was bugged so they could listen in on his conversations.[17] They did not tell him that it also contained 15 grams of RDX explosive.[3] Hamad gave the phone to his nephew Osama, knowing that Ayyash regularly used Osama's phones.[18]

At 08:00 on 5 January 1996, Ayyash's father called him and Ayyash answered. Overhead, an Israeli plane picked up their conversation and relayed it to an Israeli command post. When it was confirmed that it was Ayyash on the phone, Shin Bet remotely detonated it, killing him instantly.[3] He was in Beit Lahia at the time.[19]

Israel has a policy that it never confirms or denies its participation in targeted killings. Per this policy, Israel did not confirm or deny its role in killing Ayyash, which led to rumors and speculation about the extent of Israeli involvement.[19]

In 2012, former Shin Bet director Carmi Gillon confirmed the story in the documentary The Gatekeepers. Kamil Hamad disappeared and it is rumored that he received US$1 million, a fake passport and a visa to the US.[20]



Following Ayyash's death, four suicide bombings killed seventy-eight Israelis in February and March 1996.[11] The first of these took place shortly after the end of the 40-day mourning period for Ayyash and the cell that claimed responsibility called itself "Disciples of the martyr Yahya 'Ayyash", stating it was a revenge attack for his assassination. Israeli security services who later interrogated one of the organizers of the attacks said they were carried out by a sub-group of the Qassam Brigades, and that, "the attacks were most probably a direct reaction to the assassination of 'Ayyash [with] no far-reaching political goal."[21]



The Militant, an international communist newsweekly, reported that "100,000 Palestinians... attended the funeral".[22] Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), offered his condolences to Hamas leaders. In a speech soon after the death, Arafat praised Ayyash as a martyr and blamed Israel for his assassination.[11][23]

In April 2010, Israel's Channel 10 reported that the Palestinian Authority named a street in Ramallah after Ayyash. The future presidential compound of the PA is being built on the street. Only a few weeks earlier, a square in Ramallah was named after the Palestinian militant Dalal Mughrabi who directed the 1978 Coastal Road massacre.[24] PA sources said the PA did not intend to name the street after Ayyash. The Ramallah Municipality stated that the street name had been chosen at the end of the 1990s shortly after Ayyash's death.[4]

In response, Israel, the United States and Canada condemned the Palestinian Authority.[25][26][27] The Israeli Prime Minister's Office called it an "outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority"[25] while a U.S. State Department spokesperson stated "we also strongly condemn the glorification of terrorists. Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians either by official statements or by the dedication of public places hurts peace efforts and must end."[26]

The PA had previously named streets in Jenin[4] and Beit Lahia as well as square in Jericho in honor of Ayyash.[28]


  1. ^ Katz 2002, p. 256
  2. ^ Former Shin Bet director Carmi Gillon confirmed the story in the documentary The Gatekeepers.
  3. ^ a b c Katz 2002, p. 260
  4. ^ a b c "The Palestinian Authority still allows and even encourages shaheeds to be turned into role models". Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  5. ^ Goldberg, J.J. (4 August 2015). "The Problem With Netanyahu's Response to Jewish Terror". The Forward. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  6. ^ "Hamas makes unverified claim it's using new rocket that can hit all of Israel". The Times of Israel. 13 May 2021. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  7. ^ Katz 2002, p. 70
  8. ^ Van Tuyll, Frederik (2009). "The emergence of the Islamic trust". Trusts and Trustees. 12 (9): 7–9. doi:10.1093/tandt/ttl009. The Islamic trust, governed by both the laws of the jurisdiction under which it is written and by Shari'ah law, has become a popular financial and devolution planning vehicle for assets held by Muslims.
  9. ^ Katz 2002, p. 9, 70–71
  10. ^ Rosaler 2003, p. 36
  11. ^ a b c Rubin 1999, pg. 135.
  12. ^ Katz 2002, pg. 77, (Bet El), pp. 106–109 (Afula and Hadera), pg. 147 (#5 bus), pg. 167 (Biet Lid), pg. 191 (#20 bus), pg. 197 (#26 bus).
  13. ^ a b c Eichler, Gabriel (21 November 2012). "Inside Israel's Hunt for Arch Terrorists: How Shin Bet Always Gets Its Man". Algemeiner Journal. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  14. ^ Katz 2002, p. 5–9
  15. ^ Katz 2002, p. 248
  16. ^ Katz 2002, p. 249
  17. ^ Katz 2002, pp. 251–252.
  18. ^ Katz 2002, p. 257
  19. ^ a b Schmemann, Serge (6 January 1996). "Palestinian Believed to Be Bombing Mastermind Is Killed". New York Times. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  20. ^ Cockburn, Patrick (9 January 1996). "How the phone bomb was set up". The Independent. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  21. ^ Gunning 2008, p. 210
  22. ^ Wagner, Candace (22 January 1996). "Gaza: 100,000 Palestinians Protest Assassination". The Militant. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  23. ^ Greenberg, Joel (8 January 1996). "Arafat Accuses Israel of Killing a Palestinian Bomb-Maker". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2023.
  24. ^ Keinon, Herb (8 April 2008). "Israel slams naming of Ramallah street after arch-terrorist". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 13 April 2010.
  25. ^ a b "Israel condemns the naming of a street in Ramallah after terrorist Yehiye Ayash". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 7 April 2010. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  26. ^ a b "Daily Press Briefing". U.S. Department of State. 7 April 2010. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  27. ^ "Canada condemns decision to name PA building after terrorist". YnetNews. AFP. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  28. ^ "Abbas' PA Again Honors Terrorist Who Murdered Israelis". Zionist Organization of America. 14 July 2008. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2010.