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(photo credit: AP [file])
A group belonging to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party announced on Monday that it had recruited 100 Palestinian women to launch suicide attacks against Israel.
A woman who identified herself as Um al-Abed told reporters in Gaza City that so far about 100 women had expressed their desire to carry out suicide attacks against Israel. She claimed she was a spokeswoman for the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah.
The brigades, she added, recently established a secret military unit for female suicide bombers from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. "We have so far recruited 100 women for the new unit," Abed said as she sat next to several masked women who identified themselves as members of Fatah. "We are expecting more female suicide bombers. The new unit is now preparing to launch attacks against Israel in response to the Israeli aggression and crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip."
Since September 2000, Palestinian women have carried out seven suicide bombings inside Israel, in which 37 people were killed and more than 250 were wounded. The most serious attack was launched in October 2003 by Hanadi Jaradat, an Islamic Jihad woman from Jenin, who detonated herself at the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa. The bomb left 21 civilians dead and 48 wounded.
Four of the female suicide bombers belonged to Fatah, two belonged to Islamic Jihad and only one belonged to Hamas.
Abed also hinted that the group was planning to target Hamas members who were responsible for attacks on Fatah activists. She pointed out that a senior Fatah militiaman, Haitham Rai, was killed over the weekend in Gaza City, apparently by Hamas gunmen.
"We know the identity of the murderers and we urge the Palestinian government to take immediate action against them," she said. "If the government fails, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades will punish the Hamas culprits in our own way."
Rai, one of the leaders of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip, was kidnapped by some 30 masked gunmen, who took him to the local cemetery and sprayed him with bullets.
The killing came in response to the assassination last Friday of Dr. Hussein Ajweh, one of the most prominent political leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Ajweh was shot to death outside his Gaza City home by unidentified gunmen. Hamas officials accused Fatah and its supporters in the PA security forces of standing behind the assassination.
Tensions between Hamas and Fatah intensified over the past 24 hours following Abbas's decision to appoint Tunis-based PLO official Farouk Kaddoumi as PA foreign minister.
Kaddoumi, one of the veteran PLO leaders who is strongly opposed to the Oslo Accords, refused to enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994 in protest of the agreement between the PLO and Israel.
Hamas officials condemned Abbas's decision as "illegal" and called for its rescission. Abbas's move is seen as part of his efforts to undermine the powers of the Hamas cabinet, which already has a foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar. Abbas has already confiscated most of the powers of the Hamas cabinet, including control over the security, finances and the media.
"Why do we need two foreign ministers for Palestine?" asked Muhammad Awad, secretary-general of the Hamas cabinet. "Kaddoumi has always been involved in power struggles with Palestinian foreign ministers. Abbas's decision will only complicate matters."