An unsuccessful suicide bomber released from prison as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli conscript, on Wednesday vowed to fulfil a childhood ambition by "sacrificing" her life for the Palestinian cause.
As she returned to her family home in northern Gaza, Wafa al-Bis insisted she would seize any opportunity to mount another suicide mission and encouraged dozens of cheering schoolchildren to follow her example.
Bis was one of hundreds of Palestinian militants freed by Israel on Tuesday in the first phase of a prisoner swap agreed with Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist overlords, to win the freedom of Sgt Maj Shalit after five years in solitary confinement.
Her words will chill critics of the deal who argue that many of the 1,027 Palestinians who are to be released from prison will return to violence once they have been freed. For most Israelis, such fears have been consigned to the future as an anxious nation watched to see how the 25-year-old conscript was faring on his first full day at home in Mitzpe Hila, his home village in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.
They were given a brief glimpse as he took his first stroll, supported by his mother and wearing dark glasses against the unaccustomed sunlight.
In the coming days and weeks, he is expected to be debriefed on his captivity by both military intelligence and the secret service, Mossad. But military officials say they want to leave him to recover his health with his family first, and will be guided by his medical condition.
Sgt Maj Shalit joked with military doctors examining him and is in better health than some expected. When told his condition was broadly “stable”, he is said to have replied: “I expected you to be surprised by my good condition.”
In contrast to the private reunion under way in northern Galilee, the scene in Gaza remained festive as freed Palestinian captives greeted relations and well-wishers at tented receptions.
But few were as outspoken as the would-be suicide bomber. Bis was just 21 when, in 2005, she volunteered to undertake a suicide mission in Israel.
Her target, Israel says, was a hospital where she had been given permission to seek treatment for burns she sustained in a gas tank explosion. She never got there. Stopped by suspicious Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint on Gaza’s border, she was discovered with 22lb of explosives sewn into a belt inside her underwear. Bis tried to blow herself up but the detonator malfunctioned.
Speaking in her bedroom, the shelves of which were lined with soft toys, Bis yesterday maintained that the six years she spent in an Israeli prison cell had left her with no regrets other than her failure to kill herself and her captors, although she insisted that her target was only ever going to be a military one.
“I wanted to be the first female martyr from Gaza to kill Israeli soldiers and I wanted to kill as many as I could,” she said. “I had wanted to be a martyr since I was a kid. I regard what I did as an honourable thing. It was my dream to be a martyr but God didn’t let me.”
If given the opportunity, she added, she would fulfil her destiny to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces. “As long as there is going to be occupation over all of Palestine, martyrs will be there to resist and to fight, and I will be among the first of the strugglers,” she said. “This is an honourable thing and I would be a suicide bomber three times over if I could.”
Bis’s mother Salma said she had no idea of her daughter’s mission — but added that she felt she had no choice but to encourage her in her chosen course of life. “This is Jihad, it is an honourable thing and I am proud of her,” she said.
Despite Sgt Maj Shalit’s apparent good humour, he is understood to be showing signs of his long imprisonment, in which conditions were said at first to be “poor”, though he has not been questioned on this aspect of his captivity yet.
He has difficulty climbing the stairs and his pallor is attributed to the lack of light he experienced in captivity.
Gilad Shalit release: freed Palestinian prisoner vows to 'sacrifice' her life - Telegraph