JABALIYA, Gaza Strip (AFP) – A Palestinian grandmother blew herself up in the Gaza Strip, lightly wounding three Israeli soldiers, in the first suicide attack claimed by Hamas in almost two years.
The mother of nine and grandmother of 41 became the oldest Palestinian suicide bomber at the age of 57, selecting as her target troops operating near her northern Gaza home in Jabaliya, seeking to curb near-daily rocket attacks on Israel.
“Troops saw a woman approaching them in a suspicious manner and identified her carrying an explosive device,” an army spokeswoman said.
“They then threw a stun grenade in her direction but she managed to blow herself up,” she added, adding that three soldiers were lightly hurt.
Within minutes the armed wing of the Hamas claimed the bombing. This was the Islamist group’s first suicide attack since January 2005, when a bomber wounded seven Israeli soldiers in Gaza.
“The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades claims the martyr operation carried out by Fatima Omar Mahmud al-Najar, aged 57, in the middle of a group of Zionist soldiers,” an online statement said.
The operation came two weeks after the radical faction threatened to resume suicide bombings in response to a botched Israeli shelling in the Gaza town of Beit Hanun that killed 19 Palestinians, mostly women and children.
Najar was shown in a clip from a pre-taped video message aired on mainstream television stations, wearing a Hamas bandana in addition to a white veil and carrying a heavy kalashnikov, fighter-style in her arms.
“I am the martyr Fatima Najar from the town of Jabaliya. I work for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades and I sacrifice myself for God, the nation, the Al-Aqsa (mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest Muslim site),” she said.
Relatives said Najar left behind seven sons and two daughters, plus some 41 grandchildren, but insisted they were proud of her “martyrdom,” which daughter Azhar said was a direct response to the Beit Hanun shelling.
“She did this operation in response to the Beit Hanun massacre. She was very moved by what happened,” said Azhar, speaking from the family home in Jabaliya where relatives came to congratulate Najar’s nearest and dearest.
Azhar also said her mother had taken part in a daring rescue operation, staged by Palestinian mothers and wives, who acted as human shields to free more than a dozen gunmen holed up in a Beit Hanun mosque on November 3.
“We are really happy. It’s a big operation. She told us last night that she would do a suicide operation… We are proud,” said Zuheir, Najar’s 20-year-old son. “‘I don’t want anything, only to die a martyr.’ That’s what she said.”
Najar was the second Palestinian woman to blow herself up in the northern Gaza this month, following a November 6 attack claimed by Islamic Jihad.