Prisoner freed in trade vows to carry out suicide mission
Published 20/10/2011 | 05:00
An unsuccessful suicide bomber released from prison as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli conscript, said yesterday she wanted to fulfil a childhood ambition by "sacrificing" her life for the Palestinian cause.
As she returned to her family home in northern Gaza, Wafa al-Bis insisted she would seize any opportunity to mount another suicide mission and encouraged dozens of cheering schoolchildren to follow her example.
Ms al-Bis was one of hundreds of Palestinian militants freed by Israel on Tuesday in the first phase of a prisoner swap agreed with Hamas, Gaza's Islamist overlords, to win the freedom of Sgt Maj Shalit.
Her words will chill critics of the deal, who argue that many of the 1,027 Palestinians who are to be released from prison will return to violence.
For most Israelis, such fears have been consigned to the future as an anxious nation watched to see how the 25-year-old conscript was faring on his first full day at home in Mitzpe Hila, his home village in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.
They were given a brief glimpse as he took his first stroll, supported by his mother and wearing dark glasses.
In the coming days and weeks, he is expected to be debriefed on his captivity by both military intelligence and the secret service, Mossad.
But military officials say they want to leave him to recover his health with his family first.
Sgt Maj Shalit joked with military doctors examining him and is in better health than some expected.
When told his condition was broadly "stable", he is said to have replied: "I expected you to be surprised by my good condition."
In contrast with the private reunion under way in northern Galilee, the scene in Gaza remained festive as freed Palestinian captives greeted relatives and well-wishers.
But few were as outspoken as the would-be suicide bomber. Ms al-Bis was just 21 when, in 2005, she volunteered to undertake a suicide mission in Israel.
Her target, Israel says, was a hospital where she had been given permission to seek treatment for burns she sustained in a gas tank explosion. She never got there.
Stopped by suspicious Israeli soldiers on Gaza's border, she was discovered with 22lb of explosives sewn into a belt inside her underwear. She tried to blow herself up but the detonator malfunctioned.
Ms al-Bis yesterday maintained that the six years she spent in an Israeli prison cell had left her with no regrets other than her failure to kill herself and her captors, although she insisted that her target was only ever going to be a military one.
"I wanted to be the first female martyr from Gaza to kill Israeli soldiers," she said.
If given the opportunity, she added, she would fulfil her destiny to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces. (© Daily Telegraph, London)