The plan was proposed as an apparent new wave of suicide bomb attacks began against targets inside Israel. Two men blew themselves up when approached by Israeli soldiers at a bus stop outside Jerusalem on 18 September, followed by an explosion on a Tel Aviv bus killing at least five the following day. They were the first such incidents since early August, despite continued episodes of lower-level violence.

The first attack was ostensibly carried out to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre of more than 1,000 Palestinians by Lebanese militiamen at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps during Israel’s occupation of Beirut. Sharon, who was defence minister at the time, was held indirectly responsible for the massacre by Israel’s own government inquiry.