January 15, 2004
Hamas Returns to Terror in Gaza
In dying, Reem al-Reyashi dealt a double blow: to Israelis who hoped Hamas had decided to show restraint and to fellow Palestinians quietly earning a living in one of the few places where Israeli-Palestinian cooperation still thrives.
Reyashi, a 22-year-old mother of two and the first female suicide terrorist to be used by the leading Palestinian Islamist group, struck Wednesday at the Erez crossing into Israel, inside a terminal where Gazan laborers bound for work at a nearby joint industrial park undergo security checks.
Having set off metal detectors, Reyashi told Israeli guards she had a steel splint in her leg. As they gathered around, she warned other Palestinians in the building to flee and hit the detonator on her hidden bomb. Three soldiers and an Israeli civilian died with her; 12 people were injured.
Three of the four casualties were identified: Staff Sgt. Vladimir Trostinsky, 22, of Rehovot; Staff Sgt. Tzur Or, 20, of Rishon le-Zion, and Cpl. Andrei Kegles, of Nahariya.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei declined to condemn the attack, saying that continued Israeli attacks and restrictions on the Palestinians are leading "to more escalation on both sides."
The Erez attack was claimed jointly by Hamas and the Al-Aksa Brigade, the terrorist wing of P.A. President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
Twelve hours earlier, Al-Aksa Brigade gunmen killed Ro'i Arbel, a 30-year-old father of five, in a roadside ambush in the West Bank.
With the internationally backed "road map" peace plan largely eclipsed by controversy over Israel's West Bank security barrier, Jerusalem buzzed with speculation that self-destructive Palestinian violence may peak once more.
"This was another murderous expedition by Palestinian terrorists, which hits them in their very own bread basket," said David Baker, of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, referring to some 3,000 Palestinians who work at the various factories in the Erez industrial park. The park was shuttered after the attack.
Hamas had seemed dormant for months, leading some analysts to speculate that it had made a strategic decision to halt attacks -- at least in Israel proper.
That theory sat well with calls from some in the Palestinian Authority for a new, passive policy whereby they would focus less on fighting for an independent state and instead would threaten to seek Israeli citizenship, eventually turning the Jewish State into an Arab one through sheer demographic force.
But on Wednesday, Hamas made it clear that terrorist attacks had been limited only because of Israeli security precautions, including the fence, analysts said. So successful are Israeli security personnel these days at spotting suicide bombers that the Islamists have been forced to reverse their ideological opposition to allowing women to become "martyrs," they said.
"For the first time [Hamas] used a female fighter and not a male fighter, and that was a new development in resistance against the enemy," Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin told Reuters. "Resistance will escalate against this enemy."
Four women suicide bombers have already struck on behalf of the Al-Aksa Brigade, and two for Islamic Jihad.
Unlike her predecessors, Reyashi was a mother. In her videotaped farewell, she appeared smiling and cradling a Kalashnikov rifle.
"I hope to knock on the doors of heaven with the skulls of Zionists," Reyashi said in a final statement dedicated to her toddler children.
Her relatives in Gaza City did not immediately speak to reporters.
"It is Hamas and Islamic Jihad that should stand trial at The Hague for war crimes, not Israel," Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin told reporters, referring to hearings on Israel's security fence to be held next month at the International Court of Justice. The hearings were scheduled at the Palestinians' behest.