Born in 1984, Wafa al-Bis was a resident of the the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza when, in 2005, she attempted unsuccessfully to carry out a suicide bombing at an Israeli hospital in the city of Beer Sheva. Al-Bis herself had previously been a patient at that same hospital, having received treatment there, free of charge, for burns she had suffered when a gas tank exploded in a cooking accident. While al-Bis was on her way to carry out the 2005 terrorist mission, Israeli soldiers, suspicious of her intentions, stopped the young woman at the Erez crossing point between Gaza and Israel. Al-Bis, sensing that she was about to be apprehended, immediately tried to detonate her explosive belt. But the device failed to blow up, and al-Bis was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison.
“I had wanted to be a martyr since I was a kid,” the incarcerated al-Bis later explained. Asked if she would ever again attempt to carry out such a mission if an opportunity were to present itself, she replied without hesitation: “Of course. Why not? This is an honorable thing and I would be a suicide bomber three times over if I could.” “It was my dream to be a martyr,” al-Bis said on another occasion, “but God didn’t grant it.” Undergirding al-Bis' jihadist resolve was her firm conviction that “Palestine will never be liberated through negotiations,” but only through violence.
From an early age, al-Bis had been encouraged by her parents to become a suicide bomber. “Jihad is Jihad, it’s an honourable thing,” her mother declared in the aftermath of the young woman's aborted 2005 attempt. “I was proud of her.”
In October 2011, al-Bis was one of more than 1,000 incarcerated Palestinian terrorists and militants released by Israel as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “I hope you will walk the same path we took, and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs,” al-Bis told a crowd of Palestinian schoolchildren who had come to cheer her return home. In response, the children chanted, “We will give souls and blood to redeem the prisoners. We will give souls and blood for you, Palestine.”
This profile is adapted, in part,from "Voices of Palestine: Wafa al-Bis," by Jacob Laksin (November 11, 2011).