Interviews With, and Tests of, Palestinian Independent Assailants

Ariel Merari*, Boaz Ganor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was designed to investigate the background, psychological characteristics and motivations of independent actors who carried out attacks in Israel. It also examined the antecedent factors that influenced their decision to carry out an attack, and their retrospective attitudes to the act. Forty-five Palestinians who had carried out attacks against Israeli targets on their own initiative were interviewed in prison about their background, motivations, circumstances and process of the attack. Thirty-nine of them were also interviewed by a clinical psychologist and took a battery of psychological tests. Twenty-six of these were diagnosed as suffering from one or more of the following: psychotic background, severe personality disorder, and suicidality. A considerable number of the participants described personal, family or social problems that influenced their decision to carry out the attack. Three dominant motives for carrying out an attack were identified: suicidality, a psychotic state, and an ideological national-religious motivation. The characteristics of the attack were influenced by the dominant type of motivation. The discussion compares the findings of this study with those of a study on suicide bombers and with studies on behavioral characteristics of independent actors in other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1595-1616
Number of pages22
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022


  • Lone actors’ terrorism
  • Palestinian terrorism
  • lone wolf
  • terrorist motivation
  • terrorists’ psychology


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