Background: The majority (n = 445) of the Israeli and Palestinian fatal victims of the El Aqsa Intifada was examined at the National Center of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv. Analysis of the trauma sustained and the anthropologic profile of both the victims and the perpetrators elucidates the trends and contrasts them with the phenomenon in the past.
Objectives: The purpose of the forensic investigation of mass casualty incidents is manifold: establishing the minimal number of individuals involved, identifying the victims and perpetrators, collecting material evidence, and determining the modus operandi.
Methods: The postmortem examination includes external description of the bodies and their injuries, photo-documentation, and sampling of tissues. Radiography, dental examination, and a ten-print card of each cadaver are also recorded.
Results: The modus operandi of the current Intifada is somewhat different from that of the previous wave of terrorism and includes more road shootings and vehicular terrorism. In addition, three suicide bombers using explosive devices detonated within crowded areas were young women, and the age of the perpetrators has increased from up to 35 years to individuals as old as 47, thus greatly enlarging the potential number of suicide terrorists. Virologic and biologic tests have been introduced to examine the tissues of the suicide bombers since they are possible sources of contagion to the wounded victims.
Conclusion: The results of the medico-legal investigation of victims and perpetrators of terrorism enable us to establish the modus operandi and the profile of potential perpetrators, which can help in the prevention of similar attacks. Documentation of the different types of injuries in fatal victims of explosion and shooting contributes to improving the awareness of the medical staff treating the wounded of similar attacks. Further investigation into the reliability of virologic and biologic tests conducted on postmortem tissue is recommended.