- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

JERUSALEM The 20-year-old Palestinian woman lifted the pack onto her back last month and walked down the street to take her position, growing more uneasy with each step. She was wearing a Western-style midriff top and tight pants for the first time in her life, the better to blend into the crowd in the Israeli city of Rishon le-Zion.
In her pack was a bomb. She was to set it off after a 16-year-old Palestinian, who had been brought in the car from Bethlehem with her by two handlers, had blown himself up across the street. When the crowd of curiosity-seekers had built up, she would move into their midst and blow herself up.
She waited 10 minutes for the other bomber to strike, looking about her at the faces in the passing crowd teen-agers, mothers with children, elderly people. She thought about an Israeli girl her age she had known. "I suddenly understood what I was about to do, and I said to myself: How can I do such a thing?"
Arin Ahmed, a computer student at Bethlehem University, recalled the moment in a meeting last week with Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in her prison.
Miss Ahmed said she had returned to the car and that she wanted to go back to Bethlehem.
As her angry handlers tried to persuade her to go through with it, she saw the other bomber blow himself up. He, too, had confessed to her last-minute doubts, she told Mr. Ben-Eliezer. The handlers, activists of the military arm of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization, drove her back to Bethlehem, where she would be arrested by Israeli security forces, with the handlers, a few days later.
In the 21 months since the Palestinian intifada began, there have been 116 suicide bombings and attempted bombings. It was in an effort to understand the psychological motivation of the bombers that Mr. Ben-Eliezer asked for the meeting
Intelligence officials had told him there was no longer a typical suicide bomber. Once they were young men from Islamic organizations. Now they could be women and more secular. She told the minister that her decision had come spontaneously during a discussion with friends about Israeli military operations.
"I thought about Jad," she said, referring to a young man she knew who had been killed several months earlier. "And all of a sudden, I said, 'You know what? I'm going to do a suicide bombing.'"
The next day she contacted Tanzim, believing she would be sent on a preparation course that would last several months. Instead, she was contacted four days later and told: "Congratulations. You're going to do a suicide bombing."
When she had finished her story, Mr. Ben-Eliezer asked, "If you were released, what would you do?"
According to a transcript of the meeting published in the newspaper Ha'aretz, Miss Ahmed said, "I'd leave this place immediately. I would draw a line across the past and never come back here. Yes, I faltered. But it was a momentary stumble. It's not me."
Mr. Ben-Eliezer rose to leave, and the young woman called to him: "Please, Mr. Minister. What will become of me? I have no future. I don't want my whole life to be ruined because of this. I'm at the beginning of life. I changed my mind."
In an interview with Ha'aretz afterward, Mr. Ben-Eliezer said Miss Ahmed had impressed him as honestly remorseful and that he felt compassion for her. "You start the meeting sitting across from a satanic killing machine and then she tells you her life story and smiles and cries, and you remember that this is a 20-year-old girl."
The minister blamed radical Palestinian organizations for exploiting human weaknesses to recruit bombers. "It's the most cynical and cruel exploitation of human lives," he said.

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