By Jennifer Griffin, ,
Published May 19, 2015
Rafat Moussa Turkouman has a face you don’t want to forget.
He looks like your average 20-year-old, but this young Palestinian from Jenin (search) was a member of the Islamic Jihad with dreams of becoming a homicide bomber and plans to blow up a bus in Tel Aviv.
Turkouman plotted to disguise himself as an Israeli teenager, slip into a crowd and do what so many Palestinian homicide bombers — more than 129 to date — have done in the past four-and-a-half years.
When asked in an exclusive FOX News interview whether the stories about him were true, Turkouman replied, “Yes, that’s right. … I was going to blow myself up on a bus in Tel Aviv.”
In the interview among tombstones in a local graveyard, the boyish, clean-cut young man with an easy laugh said he was willing to kill himself and others “because of the Israeli aggression against our people, the violence we watch on TV of them killing our children, assassinating our people.”
But the recent ceasefire in the region put Turkouman’s plans on hold.
Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — about a dozen of whom accompanied Turkouman to the interview and have been watching him closely — stopped the youth from committing an attack and took away his bomb belt, which had been given to him by the Islamic Jihad.
The brigade doesn't want him to do anything to disrupt the fragile 3-month-old truce with Israel negotiated by their President Mahmoud Abbas (search).
FOX News asked Turkouman whether he was glad the brigade convinced him not to carry out a homicide bombing. He didn’t understand the question, but replied “yes” after some members whispered to him.
Turkouman didn’t seem able to think for himself. He barely understood FOX’s questions, even in his native Arabic, and the brigade commanders told him what to say. He appeared extremely vulnerable to peer pressure.
But to the Israelis, Turkouman is a ticking bomb and should be diffused.
In the past, when the Israelis had intelligence about a bomber, they’d storm his hiding place in the West Bank (search) to pre-empt the attack.
But the ceasefire has left a vacuum. Control over Jenin has not yet been handed over to the Palestinian security forces. They can’t carry weapons, making it difficult for them to make arrests and prevent attacks.
So now the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is keeping a close eye on Turkouman.
The group, which chose the cemetery for the site of the interview, is usually in hiding, on the run from the Israelis. When FOX sat down with members, they were a bit more relaxed than usual because of the ceasefire — smoking and chatting in broad daylight — though most predicted they'd eventually break down and go back to fighting.
Still, the young men admitted that they're exhausted and just want to sleep in the same place two nights in a row. The graveyard where they sat with FOX is where 27 of their friends are buried. Most approve of Abbas' plan to incorporate them into the security forces. They said they'd accept such an offer, even though it would mean they'd have to give up their personal weapons as a result.
When they caught wind of Turkouman's plans to blow himself up on a bus, they thwarted the scheme and took away the explosives. Since they didn't have anyone to turn him over to, they decided to simply keep an eye on him so that he wouldn't continue with his mission.
But what is particularly troubling is that Turkouman says he hasn’t abandoned his plan of conducting a homicide bombing if he gets the chance.
“If the ceasefire collapses, I will go for it again,” he told FOX News, laughing.
Click in the video box for a report by FOX News' Jennifer Griffin.