Bomber's handlers 'fooled him', family members say

Saada's mother claims bomber "doesn't know anything about this, he was never jailed and he never participated in demonstrations."

netanya bomber 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
netanya bomber 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Relatives of Lotfi Abu Saada said they were perplexed Monday that the simple farmhand strapped on a bomb belt on and blew himself up outside a mall in Netanya, killing himself and five Israelis. But a local official said grinding poverty could breed more such attackers. In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and promised an especially harsh response by his security forces. However, similar promises following other attacks have gone unfulfilled. "This operation... against civilians causes the most serious harm to our commitment to the peace process and the Palestinian Authority will not go easy on whoever is proved to be responsible for this operation," said a statement issued by Abbas's office. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it came in retaliation for Israeli killings of the group's leaders. But Abu Saada's family said he had never been affiliated with them. "Those who sent him have fooled him," said the bomber's mother Abu Saada's mother, Amina, weeping. "My son is a poor soul. He doesn't know anything about this, he was never jailed and he never participated in demonstrations." Abu Saada, 23, lived with his 10-member family in an old two-bedroom brick house. The home was frequently visited by soldiers who would leave after checking her children's IDs and finding that none of them was wanted, Amina said. Next door lived Abu Saada's cousin Nidal Abu Saada, a top Islamic Jihad terrorist wanted by Israel. But neighbors and family said Lotfi Abu Saada, a frail man with little schooling, had no time for politics. His uncle, Mufid Rashed, 48, employed him on his farm and in a brick factory. "This is the first time he missed work, " Rashed said. Outside the family house, people gathered in disbelief, screaming and wailing. The bomber's father, Amin, a farmer, was in a state of shock, laughing at times and crying at others. "I am not convinced, I don't believe this. My son can't even get to the city alone, how can he get to Netanya? He doesn't read or write," he said. Illar, a small village northeast of Tulkarm, is an Islamic Jihad stronghold. Abu Saada was the fourth suicide bomber to come from Illar. But poverty will breed many more bombers, said Sufian Shadid, head of the local council. "Abu Saada had no meaning to his life," Shadid said. "He can be used by any party which pays money to improve his family's life. The Palestinian Authority must come and see how these families live. This won't be the last [suicide bomber]. There is too much unemployment and poverty."