by DEBKAfile

22 April 2002

"Israel’s month-long offensive to smash Palestinian terrorists strongholds in the West Bank has had a side effect worth noting: some ordinary Palestinians are no longer afraid to speak out and admit their distress – in front of television cameras.

In the Jabalya camp of the Gaza Strip, the local correspondent for Israel’s Channel 2, Seliman a-Shafi, gave Sunday night viewers a rare glimpse into the mind of a would-be suicide killer - a terrified adolescent aged 14 who freely told his story. Sent on a suicide mission against an Israeli military position – he did not say by which group - he set out with another boy in the dark of night. Halfway there, he stopped. “I didn’t want to die,” he said, tears rolling down his face. 'I wanted to go back to my family.' He tried to persuade his friend to return home with him. The friend refused. The boy turned back alone and a few minutes later heard an explosion. Filled with fear, he ran hard until he reached the safety of home.

The boy’s family took part in the interview, led by his comfortably ample mother surrounded by her large brood. 'They take our children when they are too young to understand, to decide if they want to die. Why don’t the take the louts hanging round the markets? My boy is in shock. He can’t stop weeping. He doesn’t know whether he did right or wrong. We don’t let him out of the house without his father – in case he changes his mind again, or they catch him. We are all in shock.'

In a strong, assertive voice, she told the interviewer that she was not the only mother in this situation. The Gaza Strip is full of women keeping a tight hold on their young sons.

'All of us here are badly traumatized. But there is not a single psychologist in the whole territory to help us.'
The boy from Gaza was not by any means the youngest child to be marked out as a 'martyr'. In Jenin, where the walls were plastered with large posters depicting dozens of dead youths, Israeli soldiers learned to beware of innocent-looking 10- and even 7-year olds with hidden bombs."

CUTTING EDGE NOTE: This situation facing Israeli soldiers sounds a lot like the situation that faced U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, where the civilian many times was your enemy. Not only were youngsters booby-trapped to kill our soldiers, but little old ladies killed many an American soldier.