GAZA CITY ø The movement led by Palestinian Authority Chairman
Yasser Arafat has joined the opposition Hamas in planning and carrying out
suicide attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said the cooperation between Fatah and Hamas was
forged in late 2003. Under the arrangement, they said, Fatah agreed to
provide suicide bombers in exchange for Hamas funding and explosive belts.
"The cooperation benefits Fatah because it is desperate for money," a
Palestinian security source said. "Hamas gains because it does not want to
be alone in carrying out attacks against Israel."
The two groups began to carry out joint attacks in the Gaza Strip last
month, the sources said. They said the cooperation was approved by the Hamas
leadership in wake of the failure of an Egyptian-U.S. effort to arrange a
ceasefire in December 2003.
At one point, Palestinian sources said, the United States offered to
guarantee the safety of Hamas leaders if they agreed to end attacks against
Israel. Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rentisi said his movement refused the U.S.
"We will not stop the resistance even if the entire leadership is
martyred," Rentisi told the A-Jazeera satellite channel.
On Wednesday, four Israelis were killed in a joint Fatah-Hamas suicide
strike at the Erez border terminal in the northern Gaza Strip. The suicide
bomber was identified as Rim Riyashi, a 21-year-old mother of two from Gaza
City and recruited by Fatah.
Family members of the dead woman worked in the industrial zone at Erez
and were suspected of providing Ms. Riyashi with information on Israeli
procedures at the terminal, the Palestinian security source said. The source
said Ms. Riyashi's unemployed 24-year-old husband, Zubad, was known as a
"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. Riyashi, holding an assault rifle, said in a video taken before her
mission. "That is the only wish I can ask God for."
Israeli officials said Ms. Riyashi arrived at the Erez terminal and was
directed to walk through the metal detector. The machine went off, and
Israeli personnel denied her entry to Israel. Minutes later, however, Ms.
Riyashi returned with a group of laborers.
"She came as part of a group of Palestinians who sought work in Israel,"
Brig.Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, said. "The
terrorist succeeded in deceiving soldiers by telling them while she was
being checked that she had a metal splinter. As the soldiers were preparing
to check her, she advanced two or three meters in the hall and blew herself
Officials said Israeli authorities would impose new security regulations
that would affect the flow of Palestinian laborers into Israel. On Thursday,
Israeli authorities banned Palestinian laborers from entering the Jewish
state. About 4,000 Palestinians move through Erez daily on their way to jobs
in Israel and before the attack Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had pledged to
consider lifting restrictions on their entry.
Hamas said this was the first time the group employed a female suicide
bomber. Permission for the use of a woman was provided by Hamas spiritual
leader Ahmed Yassin. Fatah and the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad have long
used women suicide bombers.
The use of women suicide bombers has been criticized by many
Palestinians as exploitative. Palestinian sources said Fatah often
blackmails women, particularly those who are unmarried, disabled or come
from lower-income families, into agreeing to
kill themselves as part of attacks on Israelis. They said Ms.Riyashi's
family had left their husband's home after a bitter quarrel in November.
The PA media appeared to welcome the suicide strike. Reports on
Palestinian radio termed Ms. Riyashi a martyr and blamed Israel for the
"Citizen Rim Al Riyashi was heroically martyred when she carried out an
explosive operation at the Beit Hanoun junction, killing four soldiers of
the occupation," the PA Voice of Palestine radio said in a news bulletin
hours after the attack.
Israel has braced for an increase in insurgency attacks in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip over the next few weeks, including another suicide bombing at
a Gaza Strip terminal administered by Israel. On Thursday, Palestinian
insurgents tried to blow up an Israeli military position near the Israeli
community of Kfar Darom in the eastern Gaza Strip.
Officials said Palestinian groups would seek to follow the model of
Sunni insurgents in Iraq, who have carried out anti-aircraft attacks and car
bombings against U.S. and coalition troops. A key aim of Palestinian groups,
officials said, is the downing of Israeli military helicopters that fly
missions over PA-controlled territories. On Wednesday, the Israeli daily
Haaretz said the Israel Air Force has curtailed air missions over the West
Bank and Gaza Strip to avoid insurgency attacks.
In late 2002, an Israeli military helicopter was struck and damaged by
light weapons fire near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. The helicopter landed
safely and nobody was injured.