Tamer Khawireh (AP)
While Mohammed Dockrat dresses his 6-year-old son in a mock suicide bomber jacket and then pontificates about how Palestinians would never really use a child in a suicide attack, Islamic Jihad tried to recruit a 15-year-old for just such an attack. Nor is he the only one. From the Jerusalem Post:
On Sunday, 15-year-old Tamer Khawireh ran home and buried his head in his mother’s arms. Sobbing, he repeated over and over: “They tricked me, they tricked me.”
Islamic Jihad had recruited Khawireh to be a suicide bomber for martyrdom and limitless virgins thereafter.
Khawireh is one of four Nablus boys recruited by terrorist groups and then arrested for an attempted suicide attack against Israel in the past month. And with the city’s mayor forced out of office by threats, a police force long-since imploded, and a population at best ambivalent about suicide attacks, nothing seems able to hinder the recruitment.
“I want to stay here with you, I want to be part of this life,” cried the boy, as recounted Tuesday by his eldest brother, Raed. An Islamic Jihad religious leader had wooed the youth, captivating him with the prospects of heaven’s rivers of honey and the beautiful women he would find there.
A few hours after Khawireh’s confession to Raed, IDF troops swooped down on the family’s Nablus home, arresting him and another young man. Both remain in Israeli detention.
Like the other boys his age, Khawireh was easily bought. NIS 100, a new set of clothes, a cellphone, and some cigarettes had done the trick. One day Raed caught his brother smoking and using the phone. “I cuffed him and he promised to give the phone back,” said Raed.
“Am I not a rich man?” asked Khawireh’s stunned father, Massoud, on Tuesday, as he passed out pictures of his son to reporters in his upper middle class home.
Massoud said he called Islamic Jihad to demand an explanation. They apologized, lamely arguing that they mistook the gawky 10th grader for an 18-year old. They then promised not to do it again, said Massoud.
He and Raed believe the Islamic Jihad, or collaborators with Israel embedded within the group, fingered his younger son after it became clear that he chose life.
Khawireh’s family called on the Palestinian Authority to launch an investigation to find out who is responsible for recruiting children.
“We discovered the plan only three hours before my brother was supposed to set out on the suicide mission,” Raed said. “It’s clear that he had been manipulated by suspicious elements and people who do not represent the Palestinian resistance.”
The brother said that, a few days before the arrest, he discovered that Khawireh was smoking. “I had a serious talk with him and asked him to stop smoking, because it was something he had never done before,” he added.
“But a day before he was arrested, I saw him in the city center, and he was talking on a cellphone and smoking. I was very angry with him and told him to go home immediately. I questioned him about the cellphone, and he said that it belonged to one of his friends who gave it to him to repair.”
The following morning, the family’s suspicions grew when they discovered that the boy did not show up for school. When Khawireh returned home later that evening, his brothers started questioning him about the reason for his absence from school.
“When he saw how worried we were, he broke into tears and said, ‘They have fooled me, they have deceived me,’ ” Raed recalled. “He told us that the armed wing of Islamic Jihad was trying to recruit him for a suicide mission and that he had retracted and decided to return home. They tried to brainwash him, exploiting his young age and innocence. To a certain extent, they were successful.”
As the PA crumbles around residents of Nablus, and terrorist groups assume the mantle, locals increasingly feel that they have no one to turn to.
Raed, a level-headed 23-year-old with a marketing degree, has demanded an investigation into the incident. The PA said it would send someone to confer with the family, but Raed has heard nothing since Sunday. The only acknowledgment of the family’s distress came in the form of a condolence call from Islamic Jihad. It was hardly the justice they were looking for.
Behind Massoud Khawireh, Tamer’s pale mother paced as she read an article about her son in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam. She said nothing throughout the 90-minute interview.
Abu Ahmed, the proprietor of the Bukhri restaurant in downtown Nablus, said the lawlessness of the city is such that “a man could be killed right outside this shop. Days later we would receive a leaflet telling us who it was.”
When asked if someone would investigate such an incident he quipped, “What investigation, what authority? What legal action? We have none of that here, it is an absolute mess.”
The recruitment of teenage bombers spurred Abu Ahmed to “constantly investigate the life of my son [who is 14]. I ask the grocer, his teachers and his mother, whom he met and what he did every day.”
A few steps from Abu Ahmed’s restaurant, a gaggle of men gathered around a reporter in Nablus’s central market trying to uphold Palestinian honor in the only way they could. One man swore that the Shin Bet had fabricated the stories of youths being conscripted, that “no Palestinian group would do such a thing.” When asked how many of them believed that version, all the men, young and old, raised their hands.
In private, Palestinians react differently. “I appeal to Israel to allow us to establish peace. I appeal to them to act against Palestinians who sabotage peace,” said Massoud Khawireh. That was before guests arrived. In public, Tamer’s father stuck to the standard Palestinian line: Israel is to blame.
Tamer Khawireh is the fourth boy of his age to be arrested in Nablus in recent weeks for planning to carry out a suicide attack. Last week, Husam Abdu, 16, was detained at the Huwara checkpoint south of the city with an explosive belt strapped to his body.
On March 16, another boy, Abdallah Quran, 11, was caught at the same checkpoint as he was carrying a bomb in a backpack. The boy was later released after it turned out that he was unaware that he was carrying a bomb given to him by two Fatah activists. In February, the IDF arrested another Nablus boy and his father, who were contracted by Hizbullah.
On March 25, a Nablus girl, Reem Salah, now 18, was sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment for planning to launch a double suicide attack along with a classmate. Her father, a Nablus cab driver, believed the accusations exaggerated. Still, he wagged an accusatory finger at the nebulous “them” for recruiting such a young girl, “for ruining her life, our life.” There is no one to call, there is no one to complain to, he added, brandishing the Israeli court documents and the plea-bargain deal that got his daughter off relatively easy.
The militias in the city are so powerful that even their own supposed controllers say they can’t rein them in. Abu Said, 30, the sturdy-looking leader of the Tanzim branch in the Balata refugee camp said that he begged the Aksa Martyrs Brigades – who sent Abdu – to leave the kids alone. “But it is hard to approach those who are armed,” he said from his office. “We just provide them with money and supplies.”