JERUSALEM – As Israel considers a plan to deport the families of suicide and homicide bombers to the Gaza Strip, Fox News has discovered dozens of militants sent off two months ago are actually living the high life in their land of supposed exile.
The so-called "Bethlehem Boys," a group of 24 Palestinians exiled to Gaza for their involvement in the Church of the Nativity siege, have been given cushy apartments and salaries. And while they do live away from their families, their greatest hardship may be learning how to cook for themselves.
Their comfortable conditions and the sandy beaches and Mediterranean Sea that border Gaza certainly haven't made them regret their roles in the 40-day standoff with Israeli troops.
Eyad Adawi, a Bethlehem gunman, scoffed when asked if he had regrets. "Does the Israeli army regret the massacres they do?" he asked. "Do they regret killing children and old people?"
Another gunman, Mazen Hussein, says he now volunteers with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's police force and is busy getting his Ph.D. in psychology.
"Our strategy went according to the Palestinian leadership," Hussein said. "When our leaders said cease fire we stopped, but the Israelis never respected the cease-fire. At a certain point you have to resist. The strategy was to get back to negotiations."
Not surprisingly, the Bethlehem exiles say Israel's proposed plan to deport families of bombers won't stop the efforts.
"Those families are innocent," insisted Hussein. "They don't know in advance if their sons make a bombing or kill a soldier. Those resisting Israel's occupation will continue, no matter what."
Every day these gunmen plan their return to the ranks of those fighting Israel.
The Hamas group has vowed "unique" suicide attacks against Israel if expulsions of bomber relatives are carried out. But Israel sees expulsions as a way to undermine what it sees as one of the incentives for would-be bombers: benefits to their families. Hamas provides schooling and other benefits to its bombers' relatives, and the Iraqi government sends up to $25,000 to the families.
Israel's attorney general last week said relatives of West Bank homicide bombers could be expelled to the Gaza Strip if they encouraged or were linked to terror attacks. Palestinian officials and human rights groups opposed the idea and have sued to block any expulsions, saying such action would violate international law forbidding collective punishment and forced deportations.
Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.