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Female Suicide Bomber Gets Hero´s Funeral (AP) By IBRAHIM BARZAK GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip 01/15/04 1:35 PM) Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20016-2004Jan15.html
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The first female Hamas suicide bomber was given a hero´s funeral Thursday, a day after killing four Israeli border guards, and Israel sealed the Gaza Strip to review security at border crossings.
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The one-day closure prevented thousands of Palestinian workers from getting to their jobs in Israel and a nearby industrial zone. The workers, among the few with jobs in the impoverished region, worried life would only become harder - but few were willing to openly blame militants for their new hardship.
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Wednesday´s attack at the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza was the first time the Islamic militant group Hamas dispatched a female suicide bomber, and the group threatened more violence.
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"She is not going to be the last (attacker) because the march of resistance will continue until the Islamic flag is raised, not only over the minarets of Jerusalem, but over the whole universe," Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said.
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An Israeli closure shut down the Erez crossing and a nearby industrial park, where 6,000 Palestinians work. The army said only those with humanitarian needs could cross.
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Some workers, though unwilling to directly criticize Hamas, questioned the wisdom of the target. "I think we have the right to fight to end the occupation, but at the same time we have to think 100 times before any act," said Fawaz Radwan, 42, who works in a factory near the Israeli town of Ashkelon.
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Even such veiled criticism remains relatively rare, though some Palestinians grumble in private about tighter travel bans or other hardships prompted by the militants´ actions. In a society where consensus is valued, criticizing the armed groups openly is seen by many as a betrayal.
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The bombing was carried out by Reem Raiyshi, 22, a mother with two young children. Raiyshi was escorted into a room for a security search and then blew herself up in an attack jointly claimed by Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs´ Brigades, a group linked to Yasser Arafat´s Fatah movement.
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Thousands marched through Gaza City during her funeral. Masked gunmen from Hamas and Al Aqsa carried her coffin, draped in the Hamas green flag.
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"It is not enough to call her a hero. Calling her hero does not give the whole truth. This woman abandoned her husband and children to win paradise," Zahar said in the eulogy.
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Three of those killed in the attack were border police, and the fourth was a private security guard. The army said four of the seven wounded were Palestinians.
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Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia declined to condemn the attack. Palestinian leaders usually denounce attacks on civilians in Israel, but not on soldiers or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians views Israelis in occupied areas as legitimate targets.
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Before violence erupted in 2000, about 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza worked in Israel, providing the main source of income for the territory. Now only 15,000 workers and another 4,000 merchants - in addition to the workers at the industrial park - have permits to cross into Israel.
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Some workers worried that the already extensive checks at the crossing would become even more stringent.
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Currently, they have to walk 800 yards down a narrow path to wait in long lines to be searched, workers said. They then must walk a considerable distance to vehicles waiting to take them to work.
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"I think we will face more humiliation and inhuman treatment, and I think the coming days will be black ones for us," Radwan said, adding that each crossing usually takes over an hour.
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Others said the situation could not get much worse.
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"What´s a drop of water going to do if you add it to a big lake of humiliation," said Salim Ali, 37, who works as a tailor at a factory near Tel Aviv.
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He blamed the Israeli occupation, not the Palestinian militants, for his people´s plight, saying: "The problem is not a Palestinian problem. It´s the problem of the world that is watching us silently without any help."
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Also Thursday, the Palestinian parliament approved a $1.69 billion budget for the year - more than twice projected revenues - in hopes foreign aid will make up the difference.
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Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad said he hopes to get $650 million from donor countries to pay 125,000 government employees.
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Donor countries, who have propped up the Palestinian budget during more than three years of Mideast fighting, are demanding financial reform in the Palestinian Authority. (© 2004 The Associated Press 01/15/04)
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