A veteran Palestinian terrorist and leader of the “Black September” airline hijacking gang, Leila Khaled, is welcoming women’s participation in attacks on Israel in the wake of Sunday’s assault by female suicide bomber Wafa Idris, which took one life and wounded an estimated 100 others in downtown Jerusalem.

“We are under attack. … the Palestinians are ready to sacrifice themselves for the national struggle for the respect of their (Palestinians’) just rights,” declared Khaled in an interview with the Italian news daily Corriere Della Sera.

“In these conditions, there is not a distance between life and death. Our existence is transformed into torment,” Khaled proclaimed.

When asked if women are prepared to join the attack, Khaled responded, “Yes,” indicating that both men and women are united in the struggle against Israel.

Khaled led a daring hijacking of four airliners on Sept. 6, 1970, which resulted in the destruction of three of the aircraft, the near overthrow of the Jordanian government and her own capture.

Although the Palestinian cause enjoys the support of fundamentalist Islam, Khaled demonstrated that not all who fight for an independent Palestine are militant Muslims.

When asked by Corriere Della Sera if religion had an influence in the Palestinian struggle, Khaled responded, “certainly,” but relegated to Islam only “a role in determining the choice [of how the struggle is to be waged].”

“Do not forget,” she added, “that women are involved in the [Palestinian] military organization.”

“We must continue to struggle with all possible measures,” Khaled stated, declaring her opposition to the 1993 Oslo “land for peace” agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“I am a member of the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine], and have always opposed the peace accords. … After eight years, [the accords] have not provided any solution. … The occupation continues,” Khaled asserted.

When asked if she noted a difference between the 1970s, when she was an active terrorist, and today, Khaled stated that now “the populace is directly participating,” in contrast to 30 years earlier when she and her compatriots failed to mobilize the population.

Khaled predicted that “in the end we will conquer,” but acknowledged that “we need the Arab countries” to assist the Palestinians.

The political fortunes of Arafat have come to an end, according to Khaled, and he should be replaced by a “division of power” that would allow “other voices” to be heard.

At present, Khaled is now involved in advancing “women’s rights” which she sees as part of the struggle “against the occupiers.”

The pivotal role Khaled gives women in the Palestinian fight against Israel – and one which she has personally played – stands in marked contrast to the extremely restricted view militant Islam traditionally holds regarding women.

Khaled’s enthusiasm for female suicide bombers is shared in a number of circles. Idris’ mother, Wasfiyeh, described her daughter as a martyr and a “daughter of Palestine,” according to a recent BBC report.

According to one relative, Idris “was happy when martyrdom attacks were carried out.” Idris was a paramedic who had been wounded several times by Israeli rubber bullets.

Idris has become a heroine: Reports indicate that other women in Palestinian refugee camps are ready to follow her example, and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein may build a memorial in Baghdad to her.

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