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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
When will it end?: Suicide bombing a year on
By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News Online

On 18 June, 2002, Palestinian suicide bomber Mohammed al-Ghoul blew up a bus in Jerusalem killing 19 of the passengers. In the aftermath of the attack that claimed her sister, Sharon Negari talked to BBC News Online about that day. A year on, she speaks to us again about how her life has changed.

Shiri was killed shortly before her 22nd birthday. (Photo from Remembering Shiri website)
"I walked into a nightmare the day my sister was killed," says Sharon Negari, recalling the day her 21-year-old sister Shiri, a passenger on the doomed bus, died of massive internal injuries.

"It's a nightmare that will never go away. I'm so angry. I just can't accept the fact that I will never see Shiri again.

"It's not even that she was killed because of an unavoidable natural disaster. It's simply because of people's cruelty. This is something I just can't live with."

Shiri lived with her family in Gilo, Jerusalem. The residents were the target of the bus attack.

Gilo, home to 60,000 - 70,000 Israelis, is a Jewish settlement built on West Bank land captured by Israel in 1967, and has long been a target for attack by Palestinian militants. Israelis regard it as a neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

"When will it ever end?" says Sharon. "After Shiri died, the only thing I could wish for was that I would be the last person to suffer such agony. But, more and more families are going through it."

In the past year, there have been 13 suicide attacks on or near buses, with dozens of lives lost.

"It's more than agony, there is fear, too. Israel is a very frightening place to be," says Sharon.

"It's a fear that affects your life so much that you don't go out, you try to avoid buses and try to calculate the quickest and safest route."

There have been 13 attacks on or near buses in the past year

In the past few weeks, there have been diplomatic moves aimed at implementing a "road map" towards peace. But, says Sharon, all the negotiating has failed to convince her and many other ordinary Israelis.

"We have always hoped for peace because the alternatives for both sides are so bad. Now, I don't know what to think. I watched the news about these peace agreements but I didn't hear any Palestinian leader saying anything about the need for a change of thinking.

"The Palestinians must stop looking at suicide bombers as heroes - stop teaching them that the best thing is to become a shaheed (martyr).

"Somehow, it just looks like all the other times that Palestinian leaders chose the way of negotiations. When they thought it would serve their interests better they negotiate and then when they think the terror way would serve them better, they change."

Mohammed al-Ghoul, the suicide bomber who killed Shiri was recruited by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has been responsible for many attacks against Israeli civilians.

He was a student from a middle-class family, which lived in the al-Farra refugee camp in the West Bank.

In the past year, his family has moved out of their two-storey home for fear that the Israeli army would knock it down as an act of punishment.

Suicide bombings

Mohammed's father Hazaa said at the time that according to the suicide note, his son acted "in order to help the next generation to live in freedom."

Today, he says he is "not sure" whether his son's act will, in the long run, help to bring peace and freedom any nearer for Palestinian families like his.

They serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence that both sides appear to be locked in, he says.

The suicide bomber Mohammed al-Ghoul
Mohammed al-Ghoul was recruited by Hamas
"What I have seen since my son died is violence and more blood. I think we should try the other way, by talking," he told BBC News Online.

"All the time, the Israeli army is hitting us, closing areas, damaging houses and assassinating people. These actions, along with the suicide bombings, attract reactions and both ways lead us nowhere."

Symbol of life

According to the Israeli army, over the past two-and-half years, Hamas has killed more than 240 Israelis and wounded 1,400 others in 73 suicide bombings.

Sharon Negari is adamant that Shiri will not become just another statistic.

"Shiri was a unique girl. She inspired people with her energy and smile. She was a symbol of life and we want it to stay that way," says Sharon.

Her campaign to get the world to take note has taken her to Brussels, where on a trip for representatives of the victims of terror, she met EU Middle East envoy Javier Solana.

"It's frustrating that the world goes on without blinking, without noticing that we just lost one of the most amazing girls that ever lived.

"But, it is important to us that people see what terrorism does to this world. It doesn't matter if it's in Israel or Bali."

She says she has been touched by the messages of support sent by people around the world to a website set up in her sister's name.

The Negari family has also set up a fund in Shiri's name to help young Israeli couples struggling financially to set up their new life together.

"It's important to us that out of all this cruelty and pain, there can be a little bit of happiness," says Sharon.

Additional reporting by Aatef Saad in Nablus, West Bank


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