Islamic Jihad terrorist teens see martyrdom as career goal
May 19, 2006
MIM: As Dr.Daniel Pipes pointed out in several widely disseminated articleswarfare ends when one side wins. Israel's only 'defense' is an unequivocal military defeat of the their enemies. Nothing short of total military victory will assure the country's survival.
Islamic Jihad sticks determinedly to deadly anti-Israel path
BY MICHAEL MATZA
Knight Ridder Newspapers
TULKARM, West Bank - There is something surreal about a visit to an Islamic Jihad "safe house" in the West Bank these days, with Hamas observing a temporary halt in attacks on Israel, and Jihad bombers taking every opportunity.
The organization's black flag with Koranic verse hangs from a cinder-block wall next to a banner emblazoned: "Islamic Jihad is a volcano on which no grass grows."
Threadbare sofas line the room and are covered with old bedsheets and Muslim prayer rugs. The permanent haze from a thousand chain-smoked Lucky Strikes hangs in the air.
Then the picture diverges from the stereotype of the Middle East extremist's lair. These are not grizzled veterans of the endless battles with Israel sitting in the semi-gloom. They are young men barely out of their teens.
Israeli troops have arrested and killed so many senior members of this smallest of the extremist Palestinian factions that the new cadres, at least the ones who come to the hastily arranged meeting in this refugee camp, look more like recruits called into action before their time.
"I have been wanted (by Israel) for the past four years," boasts Ghaleb Shafi, 20, who said he is in charge of booby traps and other forms of resistance when Israeli troops raid the poured-concrete warren of narrow streets that is home to about 25,000 Palestinians. Shafi estimates that 90 Palestinians have died there fighting Israel since the start of this intifadah in September 2000.
"We hide in the alleyways and go to the mountains. We eat in the alleys. We sleep in the alleys. All our lives are spent in the alleys," he said, adding that other teams within his group are responsible for suicide attacks inside Israel.
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.
Although the larger group Hamas declared a temporary halt to suicide bombings when it decided to enter the political arena, Islamic Jihad has eschewed all political participation.
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. Shallah's call came amid stepped-up Israeli military activity against his group and others.
Although Islamic Jihad and Hamas share the goal of unseating Israel from the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea that they view as sacred Palestinian territory, they have differed recently concerning tactics.
The situation creates the possibility of an eventual confrontation between Islamic Jihad and the Hamas-led government, which is struggling for international recognition, but Shafi is not worried.
"Fatah never dared arrest us," he said of the party that Hamas ousted in January parliamentary elections, "and the same applies to Hamas. They have their own wanted people. How can they arrest us? ... No Palestinian will put me in jail. I defend the pride of a whole nation."
And what if Hamas tells Jihad to stand down militarily, even if only for practical reasons?
"Hamas knows better than to ask us this question," Shafi said. "As long as Israel keeps up its aggressive policies, Hamas will not only not harass us, they will bless our acts."
A ninth-grade dropout in shiny black jeans and a military-style shirt, Shafi and his two pistol-packing bodyguards paint a portrait of themselves as fierce anti-Israel fighters.
The image sticks - until Shafi's mother, Ghada, 40, wrapped in a white hijab and hand-embroidered robe, 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."'
At that, Shafi got mad and shooed his mother from the room. It could have been a scene out of "Leave It to Beaver," with a deadly twist.
But this is no situation comedy.
The violence has taken a huge toll in human life. At least 1,000 Israelis have been killed in suicide bombings and other attacks since the start of the intifadah 5 1/2 years ago.
On the Palestinian side, Shafi estimates that he has been to 300 funerals for fighters from all factions, whom he calls martyrs, in the last few years.
Given that Israel seems to have the upper hand now militarily, does Shafi imagine the day when he will leave the life of an extremist behind and attempt to live a more normal life?
"I never imagine such a scenario," he said. "I am a martyr as I am sitting in front of you. As I am sitting in front of you, I am waiting for a missile to get hold of me. I have been brought up in an environment where I am ready to die at any minute. How can I withdraw from this?"