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Gaza Mother, 22, Kills Four Israelis in Suicide Bombing (NY TIMES) By GREG MYRE EREZ, Gaza Strip 01/15/04) Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/15/international/middleeast/15MIDE.html
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EREZ, Gaza Strip, Jan. 14 — A young Palestinian mother, feigning a limp and requesting medical help, blew herself up Wednesday at the entrance to a security inspection center for Palestinian workers, killing four Israeli security personnel and wounding seven people, the Israeli military said.
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The bomber, Reem al-Reyashi, 22, said in video released after her attack that "it was always my wish to turn my body into deadly shrapnel against the Zionists and to knock on the doors of heaven with the skulls of Zionists." Ms. Reyashi left behind a son aged 3, and a year-old daughter.
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Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, said this was the first time his group had dispatched a woman to be a suicide bomber. Some militant Palestinian factions have been reluctant to do so, and some Islamic groups have questioned whether it is permitted under Islamic law.
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But when Sheik Yassin was asked why Hamas had decided to send a woman, he cited purely tactical concerns. "It could be that a man would not be able to reach the target, and that´s why they had to use a woman," he said.
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Ms. Reyashi´s attack, in an industrial zone at the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, was the first Palestinian suicide bombing to kill Israelis since a Dec. 25 blast at a bus stop outside Tel Aviv, which also left four dead. Middle East violence has been down recently, but the blast ratcheted up tensions and dealt another blow to peace efforts that have been stalled for months.
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Israel responded by immediately shutting down the industrial zone and sending home the roughly 4,000 Palestinian workers employed in its factories.
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"Palestinian terrorists are not only committed to striking Israelis at every opportunity, they are also bent on destroying their own economy," said David Baker, an official in the office of Israel´s prime minister, Ariel Sharon.
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Palestinians have carried out more than 100 suicide bombings during the past three years of violence. But such attacks have been extremely rare in the fenced-in Gaza Strip, where Palestinian contact with Israelis is largely limited to security checks at places such as Erez.
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Ms. Reyashi was able to carry out her bombing by momentarily deceiving the soldiers with her claim that she needed medical treatment inside Israel, the military said.
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She joined the line where the Palestinians go through a security check each morning as they enter the industrial zone.
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As she approached the building´s entrance, which has a metal detector at the doorway, she was limping, the Israeli military and Palestinian witnesses said. She told soldiers she had a recent leg operation, and a metal pin had been implanted that the detector would register.
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She was allowed to pass, and when the alarm sounded, the soldiers told her to wait while they called an army woman to search her, the military said. Seconds later, Ms. Reyashi detonated her bomb, estimated at about 10 pounds and packed with ball bearings and screws to make it more lethal, the military said.
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The blast tore apart the simple structure, sending part of the roof skyward and leaving behind dangling strips of metal. The floor was sticky with blood and littered with body parts, and bloodstains speckled the walls.
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Two soldiers, a border policeman and a civilian security guard were killed and seven people were wounded, including both Israeli security personnel and Palestinians heading to work.
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Ms. Reyashi, who came from a middle-class family in Gaza City, appeared in her video wearing combat fatigues, with an automatic rifle in her hands and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher on the desk in front of her.
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"God gave me the ability to be a mother of two children who I love so," she said. "But my wish to meet God in paradise is greater, so I decided to be a martyr for the sake of my people. I am convinced God will help and take care of my children."
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After the bombing, her husband was seen crying outside the family home. A relative said he had no knowledge of his wife´s plans, Reuters reported.
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Hamas, the Islamic movement, and the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a faction loyal to the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, took joint responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Israel´s killing of Palestinians.
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Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian leadership usually condemn suicide bombings inside Israel, but issued no such statement after Wednesday´s blast.
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The Palestinian leaders rarely criticize attacks against Israeli soldiers or settlers in the West Bank or Gaza, land Israel has occupied since the 1967 war.
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Hamas had not carried out a suicide attack for the past four months, and senior Israeli military officials said last month that they believed Hamas had temporarily suspended them.
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But Sheik Yassin said Wednesday that "there is no truce, operations will continue."
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Wednesday´s bombing raised the prospect of a step-up in battles between Hamas and the Israeli military.
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Last summer, Israel´s military struck at four senior Hamas leaders, including Sheik Yassin, while the Islamic faction carried out several suicide bombings. (Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company 01/15/04)
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