- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip The Islamic radical movement Hamas and the mainstream Palestinian militant movement Fatah are waging a struggle for leadership of the Palestinian uprising in which the score is kept in Israeli dead.

Over four days late last week, Hamas leaders noted proudly, the group produced four "martyrs" who blew up a total of 16 Jewish youths at a Jerusalem cafe and a Jewish settlement.

Fatah, meanwhile, killed 12 Israelis including two babies, a toddler and four other children in just over a week.

In Gaza, the news of the new Hamas martyrs' work was painted on city walls within hours of the attacks, along with slogans and appeals for greater shedding of Israeli blood.

Long lines of backers and fighters from all Palestinian factions subsequently turned up at a ceremony that ended with the guests kissing and shaking hands with the fathers and other male relatives of the dead killers.

Under the green flag of Hamas, a bearded father stood erect and without tears alongside a clean-shaven older man whose son had died in the same suicide operation. The bodies of both, the fathers said, were mangled by an Israeli tank that ran over them.

"I have eight more sons to give to the struggle as martyrs," declared the father of Mohamed Fatouh, who blew himself up alongside an Israeli armored vehicle a week ago.

"I'd been trying to become a martyr for nine years and am still alive, sadly, so I'm proud we have a martyr in the family at last."

"Peace with the Jews?" sneered the 40-year-old father of the other dead teen-age bomber, Sakr al Boul. "No, impossible."

The suicide killers were Hamas supporters, but followers of the mainstream Fatah movement attended the wake and pleased those in attendance with a speech as virulently anti-Israeli as those of the Hamas orators.

"Fatah has started to imitate us," noted Hamas' most important leader at the "martyrdom" party, Mahmoud el-Zahar.

Fatah, founded and still presided over by Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, conducted more conventional operations through the early part of the 17-month-old intifada, he said. But he said Fatah had turned to suicide attacks after seeing how effective they were.

Indeed, in the Fatah-controlled Deheisheh refugee camp close to Bethlehem, a more subdued but similar ceremony took place earlier last week.

There, a stream of visitors lined up in a narrow hilltop alley to pay their respects and offer their congratulations to the father and brothers of 18-year-old Mohammed Daraghmeh, a Fatah stalwart, who had blown himself up in Jerusalem.

In the process, he killed a baby, a toddler, three other children and four women as they finished an end-of-Sabbath meal.

"They can see how popular our way has become," said Dr. Zahar, a surgeon who runs a medical clinic while serving as a senior Hamas political leader.

Dr. Zahar said the two movements sometimes work together, as when Hamas agreed to a short cease-fire in December to preserve Palestinian common purpose.

But he said the group balked at efforts to put some Hamas leaders under symbolic house arrest, leading to clashes with Fatah that left six persons dead in a Gaza refugee camp.

The shared policy of suicide attacks is bringing the movements together again, he said, and each successful attack produces new volunteers for death.

"They are lining up," he said with a wave at the dozens of young men milling around at the wake. "We have hundreds and hundreds."

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