Born in 1984, Wafa al-Bis was a resident of the the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. In her youth, she was recruited into terrorism by the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas‘s Fatah faction.
In early 2005, al-Bis was a patient at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, where Israeli doctors were treating her — on humanitarian grounds and free of charge — for burns she had suffered when a gas tank exploded in a cooking accident. Notwithstanding the Israeli doctors’ efforts on her behalf, one day in June 2005 al-Bis sewed 10 kilograms of explosives into her underwear and attempted to carry out a suicide bombing at an Israeli hospital. As the woman walked toward her destination, Israeli soldiers stationed at the Erez crossing point between Gaza and Israel stopped and questioned her. Sensing that she was about to be apprehended, al-Bis immediately tried to detonate her explosives. But they failed to blow up, and the woman was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison.
After her arrest, al-Bis pleaded for mercy on grounds that she “didn’t kill anyone.” “I did not intend to carry out an attack,” she claimed to no avail.
Within a short time period, however, al-Bis began righteously defending her actions in the service of Islamic jihad. “My dream was to be a martyr,” she screamed at reporters on June 21, 2005. “I believe in death. I wanted to blow myself up in a hospital, maybe even in the one in which I was treated. But since lots of Arabs come to be treated there, I decided I would go to another, maybe the Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. I wanted to kill 20, 50 Jews … even babies …”
Asked if she would ever again attempt to carry out such a mission if an opportunity were to present itself, she replied without hesitation: “Of course. Why not? This is an honorable thing and I would be a suicide bomber three times over if I could.” “It was my dream to be a martyr,” al-Bis said on another occasion, “but God didn’t grant it.” Undergirding al-Bis’ jihadist resolve was her firm conviction that “Palestine will never be liberated through negotiations,” but only through violence.
In October 2011, al-Bis was one of 1,027 incarcerated Palestinian terrorists and militants released by Israel as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “I hope you will walk the same path we took, and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs,” al-Bis told a crowd of Palestinian schoolchildren who had come to cheer her return home. In response, the children chanted, “We will give souls and blood to redeem the prisoners. We will give souls and blood for you, Palestine.” “We will pursue our struggle,” added al-Bis. “… Arrests will not deter us from our strong battles and confrontation in the face of Zionist arrogance in the land of Palestine.”
When al-Bis’s mother, Salma Shubeyr, learned that her daughter was up for release, she was ecstatic. “I can’t begin to describe my happiness, I kept ululating,” Shubeyr told reporters. “Jihad is Jihad, it’s an honorable thing. I was proud of her.”
Further Reading: “Voices of Palestine: Wafa Al-Bis” (by Jacob Laksin, 11-10-2011); “Palestinian ‘Targeted Hospital’” (BBC News, 6-21-2005); “Released Prisoner Profile: Wafa Bis” (CAMERA.org, 10-21-2011); “Failed Bomber: ‘I Don’t Regret What I Did. It Was an Honour’” (Independent, 10-20-2011).