Suicide Message Of A Mother
Who Left Home To Kill
By Justin Huggler
15 January 2004
In the video she left before she died,
Reem al-Riashi said she had dreamt of becoming a "martyr",
that she wanted pieces of her body to fly like "deadly shrapnel".
Yesterday they were
sponging up her body parts from the floor, indistinguishable from the
flesh of the four other people she murdered when she detonated the bomb
in her vest.
Riashi was only
the second Palestinian mother to become a suicide bomber. She left behind
two children: Mohammed, three, and Doha, two. "God gave me two
children and I loved them so much," she said in her videotaped
suicide message. "Only God knew how much I loved them." Yesterday,
her children were motherless.
She died just a
day after Tom Hurndall, the unarmed British peace activist who was shot
in the head by an Israeli soldier just a few miles south in the Gaza
Strip last April, and left in a coma for nine months. Riashi was 22,
the same age as Hurndall. He died trying to rescue Palestinian children
trapped in the line of fire. Riashi died in order to kill and maim.
Her family disowned
her for what she did. "I condemn it," said her brother-in-law.
"I support peace." Some said they saw her husband sitting,
crying. He did not know what she was going to do. She talked her way
past an Israeli security check at a border crossing out of the Gaza
Strip, then set off her explosives, killing two Israeli soldiers, a
member of the military-style border police, and an Israeli civilian.
Some time before
9.30am - the time that Riashi detonated the bomb wrapped around her
- she arrived to queue at the border crossing for Palestinian workers
into an industrial complex on the Israeli side of the border. Some 3,000
Palestinians cross to work in the complex every day.
were describing it as a symbol of co-operation between Palestinians
and Israelis. But it is a symbol of another sort for the Palestinians
trapped inside Gaza. Desperate for work, they have to queue for hours
penned in like sheep in narrow spaces between metal bars to be allowed
in to the industrial area.
It was Riashi's
first time queuing here. She claimed she had come to apply for an ID
card with a magnetic strip, which would allow her to cross every day
to work in the complex. She was faking a limp to get past security,
and witnesses told reporters one woman had helped Riashi, believing
that she was disabled. Riashi thanked the stranger, then warned her
to back away.
When she reached
the front of the queue, Riashi told the Israeli soldiers manning the
security check that she had a metal implant in her leg, which she feared
would set off the metal detector, Major Gadi Shamni, the Israeli army
brigade commander in Gaza said. Because she was a woman, the soldiers
sent for a woman soldier to check her by hand, and asked her to step
inside and wait.
Suddenly there was
an explosion. Under her clothes, Riashi was wearing a vest packed with
explosives, and once inside the room she set them off. The room was
full of people: Israeli soldiers and security guards, and Palestinians
waiting to cross. Seven were wounded, four of them Palestinians. One
Palestinian woman said she saw the woman ahead of her in the queue,
who had just gone into the room, with blood pouring from her legs.
In the upmarket
neighbourhood of Gaza City where Riashi lived, the mood was sombre.
There was the usual tent for mourners but little of the mood of defiance
and even celebration that usually comes after a suicide bomber's death.
emerged from her funeral prayers in the mosque but he would not say
anything. At the house where she lived, they did not want to talk either.
They were taking the furniture out before the Israeli army got there.
They were even unscrewing the metal gate.
The army routinely
demolishes the homes of suicide bombers, a practice condemned by international
human rights groups as collective punishment because it is the bombers'
relatives who suffer. At first, her brother-in-law denied any woman
from the family had done such a thing, then he said he condemned it.
He would not give his name.
What prompted a
mother of two small children to abandon them and carry out such a terrible
deed remains mysterious. Gaza is a pressure cooker, where millions of
Palestinians are trapped in a small coastal strip, with mass unemployment
and poverty. But Riashi's family was well off. She lived in a new four-storey
house. There were rumours of a disagreement between her husband and
the family, even that he had not been at home for some time.
In the video she
left behind, Riashi said she had dreamt of becoming a "martyr"
since she was 13. Swathed in a green sash and headband of the militant
group Hamas, clutching an American-made assault rifle and smiling, she
said: "I always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr
attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish
I can ask God for." She was not the first Palestinian woman to
carry out a suicide bombing, but she was the first to do so for Hamas.
The militant group and another faction, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades,
claimed joint responsibility. Hamas said it had sent a woman suicide
bomber for the first time because Israeli security had created "obstacles"
for male bombers, and there would be more use of this tactic.
will escalate against this enemy until they leave our land," said
Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. In recent weeks, the talk
from Hamas has been of a possible ceasefire. Now it seems the killing