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Suicide bomber gets hero's funeral

AP   2004-01-16 03:36:24  

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP -- The first female Hamas suicide bomber was given a hero's funeral yesterday, a day after killing four Israeli border guards, and Israel sealed the Gaza Strip to review security at border crossings. The closing 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 more difficult -- but few were willing to openly blame militants for their new hardship.

Top Israel army commanders met at the Defence Ministry yesterday to consider a response to the latest attack, a security official said.

Targeted killings of senior Hamas militants were expected to resume, said the official.

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.

"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.

The Israeli security official said Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin issued a religious edict permitting women to carry out bombings, something Hamas had resisted. He said Yassin personally approved Wednesday's attack.

The Israeli closing 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. The closing was to last until Sunday, the security official said.

Some workers, though unwilling to directly criticize Hamas, questioned the wisdom of Wednesday's attack. "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.

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.

The bombing was carried out by Reem Raiyshi, 22, a mother with two young children. She had been escorted into a room for a security search when she blew herself up. The attack was jointly claimed by Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a group linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

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