Inside a Den of Islamic Jihad Bombers

(Philadelphia Inquirer) Michael Matza - A visit to an Islamic Jihad "safe house" in Tulkarm in the West Bank reveals not grizzled veterans of the endless battles with Israel but young men barely out of their teens. Israeli troops have arrested and killed many senior members of this extremist Palestinian faction. Cells attached to Islamic Jihad, which Israeli security sources say gets an estimated $2 million a year in state-sponsored funding from Iran, have claimed responsibility for nearly all of the nine suicide bombings that have struck Israel in the last 15 months, killing 36 people and wounding hundreds. The group's external leader, based in Syria, Ramadan Shallah, recently called for "nonstop efforts" to infiltrate suicide bombers into Israel and the West Bank to kill Jewish settlers. Ghaleb Shafi, 20, who said he is in charge of booby traps, is not worried about an eventual confrontation between Islamic Jihad and the Hamas-led government. "Fatah never dared arrest us, and the same applies to Hamas....No Palestinian will put me in jail. I defend the pride of a whole nation." Shafi's mother, Ghada, 40, enters the room and reminds him that she twice tried to hand him over to Israeli troops because she would rather see him go to prison than be killed. "I don't sleep," she said. "I pray all night for his safety. I tell him: 'All the people [in his group] have been killed or arrested. Your turn will be next. Please stay away from them.'"

2006-05-11 00:00:00

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