Hamas asks Egypt to help save 'Mother of Martyrs'

Palestinian mother famous for encouraging her son to attack a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip in criticial condition after massive heart attack.

miriam farhat 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
miriam farhat 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Miriam Farhat, the Palestinian mother who became famous in 2002 when she appeared in a video encouraging her son to attack a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, was reported Thursday to be in critical condition after suffering a massive heart attack. "When I see all the Jews in Palestine killed, that will be enough for me," she said on camera. "I wish he will kill as many as he can, so they will be scared." Her son Muhammad, 19, killed five teenagers and wounded 23 people at Atzmona before he was shot dead in March of that year. Hamas seized the opportunity of her illness to exert pressure on the Egyptians to reopen the Rafah border crossing so that she could be transferred to an Egyptian hospital. The Egyptians initially refused to allow her in, but later succumbed to the pressure and reopened the crossing. Farhat's eldest son, Nidal, was killed in 2003 while he was preparing for another attack. A third son, Rawad, died in an IAF raid on his vehicle in 2005. The death of her three sons earned Farhat the title "Mother of Martyrs" and turned her into a heroic symbol of the second intifada in the eyes of many Palestinians. Farhat, 59, was elected as a Hamas representative in the parliamentary elections that were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in January 2006. As she lay in the intensive care unit at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, Hamas leaders appealed to Egypt to reopen the Rafah border crossing immediately to enable Farhat to receive medical treatment in Cairo. Relations between Hamas and Egypt have been strained lately after Hamas officials accused Cairo of failing to fulfill a promise to reopen the Rafah crossing in the aftermath of the cease-fire agreement that was reached with Israel last month. Tensions between the two parties escalated last week when some Hamas officials said that Egypt was not an "honest broker" in the talks over the release of kidnapped St.-Sgt Gilad Schalit. The officials said that Hamas would not resume talks over the release of Schalit until the Egyptians agreed to reopen the border crossing. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was among the first to visit Farhat in hospital. Emerging from the intensive care unit, Haniyeh urged the Egyptians to reopen the crossing to "save her life." He said that the time has come to reopen Rafah permanently. "More than 1.5 million Palestinians have been living in a big prison [in the Gaza Strip] for the past 14 months," he said. "The siege has resulted in the death of more than 215 Palestinians who were unable to receive medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip." Hamas Health Minister Bassem Naim also made an urgent appeal to his Egyptian counterpart to allow Farhat to be moved to a hospital in Cairo. Earlier, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of "participating in the siege on the Gaza Strip." He said the continued blockade was aimed at "blackmailing" Hamas. "Mubarak and Abbas bear the responsibility for the ongoing catastrophe in the Gaza Strip," he added, warning that Farhat, who is popularly known as Umm Nidal, was in urgent need of advanced medical treatment. "The Mother of Martyrs is dying and the Arab world does not seem to care," a Hamas representative told The Jerusalem Post. "It's a disgrace that a Palestinian woman who sacrificed three of her sons for the cause is being barred from receiving proper medical treatment in an Arab country." Another Hamas official warned that Farhat's death could trigger a wave of anti-Egyptian protests throughout the Gaza Strip. "If the woman dies because she is denied medical treatment in Egypt, the entire Gaza Strip will explode," he said. "I don't rule out the possibility that much of the anger would be directed toward Egypt and that people would try to storm the Rafah border crossing." The video in which she appeared saying farewell to her son Muhammad before he set out on his suicidal mission came as shock to many. Asked why she had encouraged her sons to carry out attacks, Farhat said that she wished she had 100 sons to sacrifice that way. In a series of interviews with the Palestinian and Arab media, Farhat admitted that after the death of her first son had she encouraged her other sons to follow in his footsteps and become shahids (martyrs): "After the martyrdom [operation], my heart was peaceful about Muhammad. I encouraged all my sons to die a martyr's death, and I wish this even for myself."