Collaborator Set Up Bomber's Phone Murder

By Cockburn, Patrick | The Independent (London, England), January 9, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Collaborator Set Up Bomber's Phone Murder


Cockburn, Patrick, The Independent (London, England)


Rafat, West Bank - "Do you know where you are going? You know they are mourning Ayyash?" asked the Israeli soldier apprehensively at the crossroads a mile from Rafat, the Palestinian village where Yahya Ayyash, the father of the suicide bombing campaign, was born, writes Patrick Cockburn.

Four days after Ayyash was killed by a booby-trapped mobile phone in Gaza, Israelis are waiting to see if Hamas, the Islamic organisation to which he belonged, will retaliate. The West Bank and Gaza have been sealed off, stopping Palestinians entering Israel. Some 400 armed police are patrolling buses and bus stations to try to head off any suicide strike.

In Rafat, a small village on a rocky hill close to the border with Israel, the brothers of Ayyash were receiving condolences from a long line of bearded students from Bir Zeit university near Jerusalem. "I can't predict if there will be revenge attacks," said a friend of the Ayyash family, who refused to give his name.

In theory the martyrdom of an Islamic hero is a matter for rejoicing, symbolised by the plate of dates being handed out to the mourners in Rafat. "He only sought Paradise," said the family friend. "He expected this to happen." Nevertheless his death at the hands of a Palestinian collaborator in a safe house in the heart of autonomous Gaza has deeply shocked Palestinians.

Perhaps Ayyash had come to believe in his media image as the man who always escaped Israeli detection, or he had let his guard down because he felt safe in Gaza. Certainly the details of his assassination show the 30-year-old former electrical student had grown careless: he stayed for six months in the same house in Beit Lahiya refugee camp and he was the guest of Osama Hamad, 27, a university friend, whose uncle was a known collaborator.

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