Monday 3 March 2003

Welsh pensioner turns freedom fighter

Ex-bank manager defends Palestinian suicide bombers

Anne Gwynne is conducting her own war on terrorism. A retired bank manager from Wales, she originally planned to join the thousands of other foreign volunteers who spend a few weeks each year picking olives, monitoring Israeli roadblocks and acting as human shields in solidarity with the Palestinians.

But after nine weeks in the West Bank city of Nablus, with bullet shrapnel in her leg and horrors she never imagined etched on her mind, she says she has come to understand - perhaps support - the more extreme and tragic tactics of a brutal conflict. She has found friends in the men with guns and the proud relatives of suicide bombers, the "martyrs" whose pictures paper the streets.

"I had never seen a tank before. I'd never seen a soldier. I've seen dead people, but I've never seen someone killed by these huge 25mm bullets. The injuries are horrific. The cannon from the tank takes the whole chest off," she said. "This is terrorism gone completely and utterly crazy. There is no other word for this because it's not one incident, it thousands of incidents across the whole city.

"I really, really understand the martyrs [suicide bombers]. I am very good friends with the family of the two who went on the mission to Tel Aviv. One saw the other explode, and then he walked away and blew himself up. They are such lovely families and very proud of their sons."

Twenty-three people died in those bombings in Tel Aviv in January, including many poor foreign workers. Was it wrong?

"I agree that it is a strategic mistake but I understand why they do it," she said. "Let's not blame the victims. It's clear who the real terrorists are here.

"I'm going to fight it."

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