Tuesday, January 20, 2004

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian mother of two small children, who killed four Israelis by blowing herself up at a border crossing, carried out the suicide bombing to atone for having committed adultery.

The attack last week marked the first time the militant group Hamas had used a female bomber, part of an evolving belief that women who are disgraced by sexual activity outside marriage can “purify” themselves by becoming “martyrs,” Israeli security officials said.

The officials, who closely monitor the evolving ideology of the Islamic militant organization, spoke to reporters in the wake of Wednesday’s attack by 22-year-old Reem Raiyshi.

Raiyshi left her 18-month-old daughter, Doha, and her 3-year-old son, Obedia, and blew herself up at the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, killing three soldiers and a private Israeli security guard.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot first reported that the woman was compelled to carry out the attack as atonement for betraying her husband with another man.

According to the report, based on Israeli military sources, Raiyshi’s husband is a Hamas operative who urged her to carry out the suicide mission.

The Associated Press, citing Israeli security officials, reported yesterday that Raiyshi was an adulteress forced to carry out the attack to restore her family’s honor.

It is not uncommon for Palestinian women accused of adultery, or of having sex before marriage, to be killed by their families trying to rid themselves of perceived disgrace.

The officials told AP on condition of anonymity that Raiyshi’s illicit lover recruited her, giving her the suicide bomb belt. Palestinian security officials said her husband drove her to Erez to carry out the attack.

After the bombing, Raiyshi’s family refused to speak to reporters, a rarity in these cases, and did not set up a mourning tent for her.

Her brother-in-law, Yousef Awad, said the bomber and her husband had had a huge argument with the family two months ago and had not been seen since. He refused to elaborate.

Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin told reporters in the Gaza Strip yesterday that the militant group would look to women to step up and fulfill their “obligations.” He suggested male bombers were increasingly being held back by Israeli security measures.

Hamas had in the past referred women volunteering for suicide missions to other organizations like Islamic Jihad.

Recently, however, the Hamas leadership has come to support such use in the case of women who have “desecrated family honor.”

According to Israeli television’s Channel Two, a new theology is emerging about female suicide bombers among some Palestinian Muslim clerics.

Male “martyrs” who blow themselves up in suicide attacks are already promised a place in paradise alongside 72 dark-eyed virgins.

According to Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari, the women are promised to dwell forever alongside the husband or fiance they have left behind.

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