Support for Homicide Bombers May Be Dwindling

Atta Sarasara has lost everything. First his 16-year-old son, Hazem, blew himself up in Jerusalem. Then the Israeli army blew up the Palestinian man's home as a result -- to discourage future suicide bombers.

Sarasara is angry with not just the Israelis, but also with the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades for preying on impressionable teenagers and giving his son a bomb.

"They used a child. He was very kind, handsome, smart. They used him," Sarasara said.

For the first time in the current uprising, ordinary Palestinians beginning to wonder what homicide bombings against Israelis achieve, echoing a statement signed by several dozen Palestinian intellectuals two months ago.

But few people in the street will question the bombing strategy publicly for fear of being seen as admitting defeat at the hand of the Israelis.

Israel has demolished the family homes of 21 bombers in recent days. Palestinian spokesmen say this only increases the bombers' willingness to attack Israel, but in at least two cases this week, fathers prevented their sons from volunteering.

One man turned his son over to the police in Tulkarem, while another in Nablus shot his son in the leg.

Sarasara said he didn't know his son planned to be a bomber, and therefore couldn't stop him. He also questioned whether his son would have carried out the mission had he known the Israelis would retaliate by tearing down his father's house.

Asked if he would allow another one of his sons to commit a suicide bombing, Sarasara said, "I don't think so."

"[The bombing] increases the suffering of the people from both sides -- from the Israeli side and the Palestinian side," said Bethlehem resident Ayyah Saad.

Hamas, the organization behind many homicide bombings, appears to have been sensing the change in public opinion.

In the days before the Israeli military killed its military wing's leader, and 14 others, in a rocket attack in Gaza, rumors circulated in the Israeli and Palestinian media that Hamas leaders had drafted pledging to end to attacks inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel.

The offer was apparently shelved after the Gaza attack, but it appears it may be viable again. Politicians on both sides point out that soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza would still be considered fair targets.

A Hamas-sponsored summer camp in Bethlehem provides an outlet to children who've been cooped up in their homes as Israeli tanks and soldiers patrol the streets. The Islamic organization may be winning the hearts and minds of the next generation, but they may lose support from the parents if homicide bombings remain their only strategy.