Palestinians executed for Israel links

January 13, 2001
Web posted at: 1:53 p.m. EST (1853 GMT)

Execution by firing squad

JERUSALEM -- Two Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel have been executed by firing squad.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ratified the death sentences after Palestinian security courts found both guilty of providing Israel with information that led to the killing of Palestinian activists.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Allan Bani Odeh was shot on Saturday as Palestinians chanted "God is Great." Majdi Mikkawi was shot at the main Gaza police station, Palestinian police said.

"This should be the fate of every collaborator who helps Israel assassinate our cadres," Fatah activist Youssef Salah said outside the Gaza police station.

Mikkawi was found guilty of giving Israel information that led to the killing of four Fatah members on November 22.

One was Jamal al-Quadr Hassan al-Razaq, the defendant's uncle.

Palestinian officials tied Mikkawi to a stake in a courtyard at police headquarters in Gaza City, blindfolded him, and put nine policemen before him with a mix of live and blank ammunition in their Kalashnikov automatic rifles.

Five members of each family, Palestinian cabinet ministers and Fatah leaders looked on.

"I was hoping to have the honour to shoot him," said 29-year-old Ahamad Abdel-Razek, a cousin of the slain Fatah leader and one of hundreds waiting outside the Gaza execution site. "We are very happy."

The mother of Awni Dheir, another of those killed in the incident, welcomed the Gaza execution.

"These are tears of joy," she said. "I felt ... comforted to hear the bullets and to see the execution has really taken place. I thank President Yasser Arafat."

In Nablus, the three-year-old daughter of Bani Odeh clung to his hand as he waited for execution, his mother and wife crying beside him.

Bani Odeh was sentenced to death after Palestinian security officials said he had confessed to playing a part in the November 23 explosion that killed his relative, Ibrahim Bani Odeh, in the West Bank town.

Palestinians accused Israel of assassinating the activist from the militant Hamas movement by placing a bomb in his car. Israeli security forces suggested he could have died from the premature explosion of a car bomb he was preparing.

A six-member police firing squad executed him in a square in the middle of Nablus, with 1,000 people watching and 1,000 more waiting outside. The women of the condemned men's family were taken out of sight before the execution.

"God will forgive you," the condemned man's brother, Ali, a member of the Hamas militant group, told him just before the squads opened fire.

"The sentences were just and fair. They were executed by a firing squad in accordance with the sentences," the Palestinian Authority's prosecutor-general, Khaled al-Qidra, told reporters.

The Palestinian Authority has now executed five Palestinians since 1994 when it took control of most of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Four more suspected collaborators were due to go on trial in the West Bank town of Bethlehem later on Saturday.

Later on Saturday, a court in Bethlehem convicted four other Palestinians of being collaborators in the killing of militia commander Hussein Abayat, hit by rockets fired from Israeli helicopters as he drove in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour in November.

The court sentenced two to death and two to life in prison with hard labour. Three of the four men, including one sentenced to death, are aged 18; the other condemned man is aged 28.

The executions require approval by Arafat. It is not clear when they are due to be carried out.