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Young Mother Kills 4 at Gaza Crossing - Female Suicide Bomber Is First for Hamas (WASHINGTON POST) By Molly Moore, JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 01/15/04 Page A12) Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15098-2004Jan14.html
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JERUSALEM, Jan. 14 -- A 22-year-old Palestinian mother of two detonated a bomb Wednesday morning at the entrance to an Israeli industrial park that straddles the Gaza Strip border, killing herself and four Israeli security officers and wounding 12 other people, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.
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The woman, identified as Reem Saleh Riyashi, was the first female suicide bomber dispatched by the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, according to a statement faxed to other news organizations. Riyashi also was the first mother to conduct a suicide attack against Israelis since the current Palestinian uprising began more than three years ago.
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In a videotape recorded before the attack, Riyashi said: "I have two children and love them very much. But my love to see God was stronger than my love for my children, and I´m sure that God will take care of them if I become a martyr."
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Riyashi, shown wearing military fatigues and cradling a Kalashnikov assault rifle, also said, "I am proud to be the first female martyr."
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Although six Palestinian women had carried out suicide bombings in the current uprising, none previously had been dispatched by Hamas.
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"The fact that a woman took part for the first time in a Hamas operation marks a significant evolution," Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the group´s founder, told Palestinian reporters in Gaza after the attack. "Women are like the reserve army -- when there is a necessity, we use them. Today we needed her because there are a lot of problems for a man to reach out to Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza."
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The statement asserting responsibility for the bombing said it was a joint operation by Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat´s Fatah movement.
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Two Israeli soldiers, one border patrol officer and a private security guard were killed in the attack, Israeli authorities said. Three were identified as border police Staff Sgt. Vladimir Trostinsky, 22, army Staff Sgt. Tzur Or, 20, and army Cpl. Andrei Kegles. The fourth´s identity was not released.
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Eight Israelis and four Palestinians were injured, according to Israeli military officials and Palestinian hospital authorities.
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Riyashi detonated explosives hidden on her body in the screening area inside the entrance to a large industrial complex where about 4,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are employed. She reportedly feigned a limp and told soldiers and security guards that a metal plate in her leg would likely set off their metal detectors, according to Brig. Gen. Gadi Shamni, commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.
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"She managed to hoodwink the soldiers by saying she had a metal surgical implant," Shamni said at a news briefing. "Because she was a woman, a female soldier was sent for, to search her. She used this opportunity to enter the building a meter or two past the door and blow up."
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The industrial area, adjacent to the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza, "is designed for allowing Palestinians to work in Israel and put food on the table of Palestinian homes," said David Baker, an official in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "This is clearly a detriment to that goal and works counterproductive to the Palestinians´ own interests."
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The explosion tore through the inspection room where Palestinians enter the complex, Israeli military officials said. The force of the blast shattered glass, twisted metal girders and left pools of blood and body parts scattered across the area, according to rescue workers at the scene.
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In a video aired by Israeli and Arab television channels, Riyashi, a chubby, round-faced woman, held the Kalashnikov rifle in her left arm. A hand grenade and a Koran were within reach of her right hand on a table covered with the green flag of Hamas. A bright green headband was wrapped around the black scarf on her head, and a green sash was draped over her military camouflage uniform. Three rocket- propelled grenade launchers were displayed at the front of the table.
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Relatives, expressing shock and anger at Riyashi´s participation in the attack, said she was the mother of a 31/2-year-old son and an 18- month-old daughter.
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Family members, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified by name, said Riyashi was a quiet woman who socialized little and had a strained relationship with her in-laws. They said that her husband had been unemployed for the past two years and that her brother had been killed by Israeli soldiers last year; but they declined to provide details of how he died.
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A sister-in-law said Riyashi´s husband and most of his family had gathered Tuesday evening for a send-off celebration for his parents, who left Wednesday on a pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia. While Riyashi´s husband spent the night at his parents´ house, Riyashi did not attend the party, the relatives said. Instead, she left her two children with another relative who lived in her apartment building, saying she was going to visit her family.
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Riyashi´s parents, who own an automobile battery factory, remained in hiding Wednesday, not even appearing at the traditional mourning tent where families receive condolences after the death of a loved one. Relatives said her parents and her in-laws feared that Israeli forces would demolish their homes, the military´s typical response to suicide attacks against Israelis.
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"She´s passed away and she´s going to go to heaven," said one of Riyashi´s sisters-in-law. "Where are we going to go if the Israelis attack us and bulldoze our house?"
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"She´s brave, but she´s destroyed all the family," said another female family member.
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"She not only destroyed the family," added another relative, "now our men are going to be wanted and our family will be on a blacklist."
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Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Israeli military operations and clampdowns on Palestinians are leading "to more escalation on both sides."
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Since the Palestinian uprising began in September 2000, Israeli security officials say, only one Palestinian suicide bomber has managed to attack an Israeli target from inside Gaza, which is surrounded by a fortified and heavily guarded security fence system. However, several attacks have been waged at border checkpoints, including three at or near the Erez crossing before Wednesday.
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Last June, four Israeli soldiers were killed near the crossing. On Oct. 15, three American security guards died when a bomb detonated beneath their vehicle in a diplomatic convoy about 11/2 miles inside Gaza from the crossing.
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Special correspondents Reham Abdulkarim and Islam Abdulkarim in Gaza City contributed to this report. (© 2004 The Washington Post Company 01/15/04)
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