Bomber's stunned family has little time to grieve
Wed 22 September, 2004 20:44
By Atef Sa'ad
NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Relatives of Zeinab Abu Salem had little time to absorb the shock after the 18-year-old blew herself up in a suicide attack in Jerusalem.
They rushed instead to empty the family home in the Palestinian refugee camp of Askar near the West Bank city of Nablus, expecting Israeli bulldozers to soon come to demolish it.
"I don't know what's happening," said Abu Salem's 12-year-old brother Tarek, in disbelief that his sister had died. "I don't know where she is. She isn't at home."
Abu Salem, whose photographs show her as a brown-eyed girl in a white headscarf with a slight smile, blew herself up near a hitch-hiking post in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing two Israeli border police and wounding 17 other people in the first suicide attack in the city in seven months.
The blast tore through the mainly Jewish district of French Hill in Arab East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move not recognised internationally.
In the aftermath of the attack, hundreds of residents of the Askar camp rushed to help the bomber's family remove furniture, clothes and appliances from a two-storey house built by the United Nations agency that serves Palestinian refugees.
Family members said they had known nothing of Abu Salem's plans for the attack.
Her father Ali, recovering from surgery to open clogged arteries, collapsed and was taken to hospital after learning of his daughter's death.
Relatives said Abu Salem had just passed high school graduation exams and had spoken of entering university.
Minutes later, Abu Salem's mother also passed out and was rushed to a local hospital.
"She had a second shock. It was not enough that she lost her daughter. Now she fears she will lose her husband," a neighbour said. "Look at the house, which is empty of her daughter, her husband and all its contents."
Israel typically demolishes the homes of militants suspected of involvement in suicide bombings, a practice Palestinians condemn as collective punishment but which Israeli officials say deters future attacks.
Abu Salem, dispatched by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant group that is part of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, was the first woman from the Askar camp to blow herself up.
The bombing was the eighth by a woman since the start of a four-year-old Palestinian uprising, Israeli media said. Residents said Abu Salem was one of 10 children from a family not known for connections to militants.
"Oppression is everywhere," said her uncle Mustafa Shinawi, 55. "Every Palestinian finds his own suitable way to protest the Israeli oppression."