“I take each step carefully because I know I am going to sacrifice myself”
There is a ceasefire in Gaza, but the BBC has found evidence of militant groups preparing for a return to violence. One group, Islamic Jihad, is training female suicide bombers.
Middle East correspondent Paul Wood went to meet a Palestinian woman who has volunteered.
The young, veiled woman was sitting quiet and still as the room bustled around her.
The black flag of Islamic Jihad was pinned on the wall behind her and two Kalashnikovs were carefully placed in camera shot. Her husband, an Islamic Jihad fighter himself, tied on her “martyr’s” headband.
Umm Anas – not her real name – had just graduated from a programme to train female suicide bombers in Gaza.
Our meeting was a highly-orchestrated propaganda event laid on by Islamic Jihad. It was almost theatre – and certainly Israel accuses the Palestinian leadership of manipulating young women like 18-year-old Umm Anas.
Yet, although she nervously twisted her wedding ring, Umm Anas did not appear to be a cipher.
She was articulate – more so than the men staging the event – and she knew her own mind.
When she spoke of becoming a suicide bomber, Umm Anas’s voice was strong and steady: “This is a gift from God.
“We were created to become martyrs for God,” she continued, her eyes burning behind the full face veil.
“All the Palestinian people were created to fight in God’s name. If we just throw stones at the Jews they get scared. Imagine what happens when body parts fly at them.”
The bomb belt which she hopes will end her life – and kill many Israelis – rested on the table next to us.
Her main motivation in becoming a suicide bomber appears to be religious rather than nationalistic – the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. Even getting married recently hadn’t changed her mind.
“When my husband married me, he knew my way of thinking. He knew exactly who I am and based on this he decided to marry me. Marriage doesn’t give me a second’s doubt.”
I asked if that would alter if she became pregnant.
“I would wait until I delivered the baby,” she said. “I would give him to my parents and ask them to look after him… Then I would leave them and the baby would remain behind as a piece of me.”
Her parents, brothers and sisters did not know.
“Martyrs – male or female – have to work in secret. No one can know about it. We have to be careful not to give our parents any sign of what we are about to do.
“Sometimes, maybe, they can tell and see on your face the signs of martyrdom. They are suspicious but they don’t know for certain.”
Ready for death
Umm Anas thinks she knows the manner of her death, but she doesn’t know the timing.