Chilling pledges in Gaza as Hamas buries woman suicide bomber
Thu Jan 15, 2:22 PM ET
GAZA CITY (AFP) - Hamas's first woman suicide bomber, a young Palestinian mother of two, was buried with a chilling pledge from her hardline Islamic group that she would not be their last female "martyr".
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However, Palestinians had mixed feelings about the path chosen by the 22-year-old mother, Reem Saleh al-Riyashi, who killed herself and four Israeli security men at the Erez crossing point on Wednesday.
Riyachi was buried in a small cemetery in Gaza City's Sheikh Ejleen district.
About 2,000 people, ironically all men in line with Islamic tradition, took part in her funeral, which started with prayers at the city's largest mosque.
A political leader from Hamas told mourners at the mosque that there would be more like Riyashi.
"The martyr Reem is a heroine since she gave up everything. This was a young married woman who left behind a husband and children to go to paradise," Mahmud Zahar said.
"She won't be our people's last.
"Hamas will not renounce the path of jihad or resistance and freedom, even at the cost of sacrificing our sons and our wives," he said.
Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin had confirmed Wednesday that the operation was the first to be carried out by a female follower of his group.
"The fact that a woman took part for the first time in a Hamas operation marks a significant evolution for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades," the group's armed wing, Yassin said.
Riyashi had lied to Israeli security guards at Erez, the main passage between Gaza and Israel, that she had a metal plate in her leg that would set off detector alarms.
She the detonated an explosives belt in an inspection room, killing two soldiers, a border guard and a private security guard, as well as wounding several others.
Her attack was claimed jointly by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, of which she was a member, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a radical offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites)'s Fatah (news - web sites) organization.
Dozens of fighters from the two groups wearing combat fatigues and carrying automatic weapons led her funeral cortege, illustrating the growing cooperation between their ranks.
Before Riyashi, five other Palestinian women carried out suicide attacks. Another two dozen would-be female bombers have been arrested and are now in Israeli jails.
But Riyashi is the only one of any of them to have had children, a girl of three and a boy of 18 months.
As the funeral took place, the suicide bombing was hotly debated around Gaza, the densely-populated stretch of land between Israel and Egypt where Riyashi said Israel's strict military occupation made life intolerable, and on some local radio stations.
At Al-Azhar University, 20-year-old student Amani said she and most other students were "against the bombing because she had children."
"There are other women who have carried out attacks, but we haven't spoken about them like this," said Amani, wearing a conservative white headscarf and long black "thoub" tunic.
"It is not a question of being a mother or a father. Everyone wants to do as she did," a man in his 40s who called himself Abu Bader said at the cemetery as Riyashi's remains were being lowered into the ground.