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May 21, 2003

Lives of Palestinian attacker, Israeli guard entwined in suicide bombing


JERUSALEM (AP) -- They were two young women who had known the pain of seeing a loved one wounded by the conflict that divides their peoples.

A few weeks ago, each made a fateful decision, one that would bring them together over a devastating explosion. Hiba Daraghmeh became a suicide bomber; Hadar Gitlin a security guard whose job was to stop her.

On Monday evening, Daraghmeh, 19, approached the entrance to the Shaarei Amakim shopping mall in the northern Israeli city of Afula. When Gitlin, 21, and a colleague stopped her, Daraghmeh detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing herself, the second guard and two other Israelis.

On Tuesday, Gitlin was fighting for her life.

"She's in very serious condition," her mother, Sara Gitlin, told Army Radio. "She's now in intensive care."

Hadar Gitlin lives in the northern Israeli village of Kfar Baruch. Daraghmeh was from Tubas, a Palestinian village just 27 miles from Kfar Baruch in the West Bank.

"We were totally shocked. We never thought she might do this," said her aunt, Ablah Daraghmeh, 42. "She left a large vacuum in her family."

Pain is not new to either family.

On Jan. 22, 1995, Hadar's sister Mor, a medic in a paratroops unit, was tending to the wounded after a suicide bombing in Beit Lid, near the coastal town of Netanya, when a second suicide bomber struck.

"She was burned on her face, her hands, shrapnel in other parts of her body, her ears," Sara Gitlin said.

She has recovered, but "there's no doubt that when there is a terror attack, it does something to her," Sara Gitlin said.

Nearly three years ago, when the current Palestinian uprising began, Daraghmeh's brother Bakir was badly wounded in a confrontation with Israeli troops near his high school, Ablah Daraghmeh said.

He spent nine days in an intensive care unit and another three months in a regular hospital ward recovering from his injuries, she said. Last July, Israeli police arrested Bakir for plotting a suicide attack. He remains in prison.

After her brother was wounded, Hiba Daraghmeh began reading the Quran daily and wearing a black scarf to cover her face in addition to the traditional headscarf, her aunt said.

A forceful young woman who was in some ways the emotional rock of her family, Daraghmeh dreamed of becoming an English teacher, her aunt said. She was an English literature major at Al-Quds university in Tubas and showed little interest in politics, Ablah Daraghmeh said.

Gitlin also had little interest in politics, said her friend Uzi Reiss, who described her as a warm, friendly woman.

She took the security guard job earlier this month because "she had to earn a living," Reiss said. She was sent home after she failed a routine security test but her bosses called her on Saturday and asked her to come back to work Sunday, he said.

Sometime in the last few weeks, Daraghmeh was recruited to be a suicide bomber by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and equipped by Islamic Jihad, according to sources in those groups. The two groups have worked together several times in the past, though the secular Al Aqsa is linked to the mainstream Fatah movement, while Islamic Jihad is a violent Muslim group.

On Monday, Gitlin was scheduled to work until 4 p.m., but her replacement was late and she had to stay on, her mother said.

At 5:14 p.m., Daraghmeh walked up to Gitlin and another guard, who were searching shoppers at the entrance to the mall, and blew herself up.

Both women's families were devastated.

"We don't believe that this kind of action helps us or helps our cause," Ablah Daraghmeh said. "It just causes trouble. It causes sadness to the family ... to lose a young girl with a great future ahead."

Sara Gitlin lamented her horrifying feeling of deja vu.

"The same thing happens to us again ... it's difficult for everyone," she told the radio. "I just hope that there will be some solution to stopping this terror."