Previous work on the dynamics of conflicts where we see terrorism has tended to focus on whether we see shifts in attack mode following government countermeasures. We contend that many factors other than counterinsurgency can influence whether groups resort to terrorism, including competition between groups, as well as their relationship to public opinion and other political events. Hence, understanding terrorist tactics in prolonged conflicts with multiple actors requires us to consider a more general framework of innovation, imitation, competition and dependence between actors. We use disaggregated data on terrorist attacks, counterterrorism and public opinion in the Israel—Palestine conflict to jointly evaluate predictions derived from several conventional theories of strategic behaviour. We find that the strategic calculus of Palestinian groups is complex and cannot be treated as time invariant. Our results suggest that factors such as the degree of public support, inter-group competition, the anticipation of countermeasures and non-trivial non-violent payoffs have an observable effect on the strategic behaviour of the Palestinian groups, and that structural relationships are often far from constant over time.