Counter-suicide-terrorism: Evidence from house demolitions

Efraim Benmelech, Claude Berrebi, Esteban F. Klor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This article examines whether house demolitions are an effective counterterrorism tactic against suicide terrorism. We link original longitudinal microlevel data on houses demolished by the Israeli Defense Forces with data on the universe of suicide attacks against Israeli targets. By exploiting spatial and time variation in house demolitions and suicide attacks during the second Palestinian uprising, we show that punitive house demolitions (those targeting Palestinian suicide terrorists and terror operatives) cause an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks. In contrast, Palestinian fatalities do not have a consistent effect on suicide terror attacks, while curfews and precautionary house demolitions (demolitions justified by the location of the house but unrelated to the identity of the house's owner) cause a significant increase in the number of suicide attacks. The results support the view that selective violence is an effective tool to combat terrorist groups and that indiscriminate violence backfires.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-43
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015

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© 2015 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.


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