Letter From Gaza: The Martyr Strategy

One day last month, I visited the terrorist Abdullah Shami at his home in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. Shejaiya is said to be a stronghold of Islamic Jihad, a group that conducts suicide attacks against Israeli targets, and Shami is the group's leader in Gaza. He lives on the third floor of a concrete-and-plaster apartment house. Before I went upstairs, I met three of his sons in the sand-covered alleyway that leads to the building. The sun was boiling hot, and the building provided shade for the boys and their friends. They were playing a game called shuhada, which means martyrs. The youngest son, Ahmed, who is three, played the shaheed, the martyr, and charged a make-believe Jewish bunker. The other boys made the sound of rifles firing, and Ahmed dropped to the ground and pretended to be dead. His brothers Mahmoud, who is five, and Muhammad, who is six, then carried his limp body down the alleyway, and performed a mock funeral. The game ended when Ahmed rose from his imaginary grave, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and giggled.

An Islamic Jihad official accompanied me to Shami's sitting room, which was furnished with huge red-and-gold couches. Framed photographs of the Dome of the Rock hung on the walls. Shami, a genial and open-faced man of forty-five, greeted me warmly. He is tall, and has smooth skin and a carefully trimmed beard. He was dressed in a white djellabah and a gray cape with a gold fringe.
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