March 4, 1996
Abdel-Rahim Ishaq, 24, a Palestinian resident of Ramallah, detonates a 45-pound bomb packed with nails outside the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, killing himself and 13 Israelis. Later identified by a caller to an Israeli radio station as a member of Hamas, Ishaq wants to enter the mall, Tel Aviv’s busiest, but is deterred by the police presence near the entrance. Instead, he turns back to a busy intersection outside and sets off the device.
The blast throws pedestrians into the air and breaks windows 200 yards away. The attack is the fourth terrorist act in nine days, combining to kill more than 60 Israelis. The suicide attack occurs on the eve of Purim, and the Dizengoff Center is crowded with children dressed in costumes for the festival. Five of the slain Israelis are age 13 or younger.
Israelis react with outrage, and protests erupt against Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who is in the middle of an election campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu. Some people call for Peres to resign; others call for his assassination, just as his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin, was killed in 1995. Peres institutes security measures that effectively end Israeli employment of Palestinians and clamp down on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank, but he loses the election to Netanyahu in May 1996. Peres’ defeat ends any realistic hope for progress in the stalled Oslo-related negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.