Monday, June 27, 2005

"I Wanted to Kill 20, 50 Jews
Yes, Even Babies"

Here's the story of a female would-be suicide bomber from The London Telegraph:

It was about midday when a young Palestinian woman from the refugee camp of Jabalya in Gaza approached an Israeli checkpoint clutching a special permit to visit a doctor on the other side of the border.

The girl had big, brown eyes and her black hair was tied in a ponytail, but it was the strangeness of her gait that attracted the attention of the security officials at the Erez crossing, the main transit point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

When a soldier asked her to remove her long, dark cloak, she turned to face him. All her movements were taped by the military surveillance camera at the checkpoint: calmly, deliberately, she took off her clothing, item by item, until she looked like any normal young woman in T-shirt and jeans. It was then that she tried to set off the belt containing 20lb of explosives hidden beneath her trousers. To her horror, she did not succeed. Desperate, she clawed at her face, screaming. She was still alive, she realised. She had failed her martyrdom mission.

That afternoon, on June 21, the 21-year-old, Wafa Samir al-Biss, was brought before the press by Israeli intelligence. Her neck and hands were covered with scars caused by a kitchen gas explosion six months earlier. The ugly scars - which had been treated in a hospital in Israel - had probably helped turn her into the perfect would-be huriia (virgin), the ideal martyr, since they would make it difficult for her to find a suitable husband.

The decision to publicise her case was intended to show that a terrorist threat remains despite a lull in the intifada since the Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire agreement at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February.

According to the Israeli doctor who attended Wafa at the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, she received blood transfusions during her treatment. "I told her, with a laugh, that now she has Jewish blood in her veins," he said, adding sadly that she had "seemed so nice - we got a lovely thank you letter from her family.''

Wafa had been sent on her mission by the Abu Rish Brigade, the small militant faction with links to Fatah. She did not, she said later, regret it, though she stressed that her decision had had nothing to do with her scarring. "My dream was to be a martyr. I believe in death," she said. "Today I wanted to blow myself up in a hospital, maybe even in the one in which I was treated. But since lots of Arabs come to be treated there, I decided I would go to another, maybe the Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. I wanted to kill 20, 50 Jews …''

Asked whether she had considered the consequences of her planned attack, that it might have now precluded access to Israel for Palestinian patients who meant no harm and needed special medical treatment that could be achieved only here, she answered: "So what?" With a flat look in her eyes, she said: "They pay you the cost of the treatment, don't they?"

And what about babies? Would you have killed babies and children? she was asked. "Yes, even babies and children. You, too, kill our babies. Do you remember the Doura child?"

Then she started to cry. ''I don't want my mother to see me like this. After all, I haven't killed anyone … will they have pity on me?''
It is unlikely. Wafa has become one of a very special group of females: the women who have tried - and failed - to die while killing for the Palestinian cause. I recently visited the Israeli jail that holds these "suicide women" near the finest Israeli villas, in the heart of the most fertile area of the country, the Plain of Sharon.

They are here, and still alive, because they changed their minds at the last moment, because they were arrested, or because, like Wafa, they did not succeed. They are kept in a kind of labyrinth, behind seven, or perhaps eight, iron doors and gates, at the end of long corridors to which few people are allowed access, and which are reached after climbing and descending one flight of stairs after another.

Their unarmed guard, a young, calm-looking blonde woman, calls them her "girls". "There are 30 of them, between 17 and 30 years old, some of them are married and others aren't, some of them have children," she told me. "Their stories come out of the Thousand and One Nights.
Some of them did it to make amends for a relative who was a collaborator, others to escape becoming victims of honour killings, and for the psychologically frail or depressed it was a good way to commit suicide and at the same time become 'heroines'.