Palestinians cheer execution of "collaborators"

Thumbing its nose at the international community, the Palestinian Authority summarily executed two alleged "collaborators" with Israel on Saturday in a desperate attempt to spread fear among Palestinians thinking of cooperating with Israeli security forces.

Separate PA firing squads executed Majdi Makawi, 27, in Gaza and Alan Bani Odeh, 25, in Nablus on Saturday, carrying out death sentences handed down by PA security courts and quickly approved by PLO chief Yasser Arafat on Friday.

In a hasty trial last week, Makawi was convicted of aiding Israel in the killing of four Fatah militiamen, including his uncle Jamal Abed Razek, Fatah commander in Rafah. The four were gunned down in a taxi by IDF soldiers manning a roadblock near the Jewish community of Morag in Gaza on November 22.

Bani Odeh was sentenced to death by a court in Nablus for allegedly assisting Israeli security forces to plant a bomb in the headrest of a car driven by his cousin, Ibrahim Bani Odeh, a Hamas bomb-maker who was killed in an explosion on November 23 in Nablus.

Although filming was not allowed, Bani Odeh was taken to a public square in Nablus, where he was blindfolded and fixed to a stake, his hands tied behind his back, and shot by a line of masked policemen armed with Kalashnikovs. Makawi was executed in similar fashion inside a police compound, away from media cameras, but an amateur video taken from a nearby rooftop aired on Israeli TV on Sunday night showing the firing squad in action.

At each site, while family members wept, crowds of hundreds shouted "Allahu akbar" (Allah is greater) in a dramatic display of approval for the swift action. PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Meddein called the executions a "clear message to anyone thinking of betrayal of his people and his homeland." He also called on all collaborators - estimated by the PA to number as many as 20,000 - to turn themselves in to Palestinian authorities in order to receive a fair trial.

Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups immediately condemned the executions, saying they were carried out without due process or right of appeal. They show Palestinian courts are operating "completely in contradiction of international fair-trial standards," said Bassam Eid, director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.

Although several Palestinians have been found murdered for allegedly assisting Israel during the recent uprising, these were the first official executions of so-called "collaborators" since the founding of the PA in 1994. Since that time, Palestinian courts have issued 35 death sentences, with three other Palestinians previously executed after grossly unfair trials and upon the personal approval of Arafat. During the first intifada from 1987-1993, well over five hundred Palestinians were murdered as suspected collaborators by other Palestinians in brutal Arab-on-Arab violence.

Later on Saturday, a court in Bethlehem convicted four more accused collaborators, sentencing Mohammed Deifallah Khatib and Husam Moussa Hmeid to death for allegedly assisting Israel in a helicopter missile attack that killed Fatah commander in Bethlehem Hussein Abyat on November 8. In addition, Hanna Mansour Salameh and Wajih Mohammed Awadallah received life imprisonment with hard labor. Palestinian militiamen outside the court fired into the air in celebration when the convictions were announced.

Reports of the executions dominated the news in official Palestinian media broadcasts on Saturday. The head of PA general intelligence in the "West Bank," Col. Tawfik Tirawi, made a call on Palestinian radio for all those "who have deviated to the Devil's path to return to goodness and to turn themselves in to the security forces and to describe in details their crimes before it's too late."

VOICE OF PALESTINE radio reporter Nizar al-Ghul said, "this week was a week characterized by settling accounts with those who made blood cheap, as witness what happened to the agent Bani Odeh before the sentence of God and the people was carried out, who stood head bowed, falling quickly and quietly in the street as the bullets of holiness and justice brought him to the ground."

And Jerusalem Grand Mufti sheikh Ekrima al-Sabri placed a religious blessing on the killings, telling VOP, "We are in favor of executing anyone who sinks to serving as an agent against the Muslim collective."

Yesterday, PA officials had little time or patience for criticism from governments and human rights groups. Abu Meddein charged that Palestinian human rights monitors "are looking for money from foreigners, and they are all two-faced." He continued, "This is like [a] court-martial... we are at real war, a war declared by Israel against the Palestinian people." A PA website today listed 17 Palestinian activists allegedly killed by Israeli commandos in the past two months.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday issued a condemnation of the executions, stating, "It is unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority, which seeks to become a recognized entity, uses show trials reminiscent of darker periods in history."

And on Monday, the European Union expressed its "deep regret" over the executions and urged Arafat to commute the two newest death sentences, as well as issue a moratorium on the death penalty. The statement was issued by Foreign Minister Anna Lindh of Sweden, which just took over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU - the biggest source of financial aid to the Palestinians.

Facing a wave of international outrage, the PA announced today that it is granting amnesty to suspected Palestinian collaborators with Israel who turn themselves in within the next 45 days. Informers who surrender will be given protection, jobs and a guarantee that their names and past activities will be kept secret, Abu Meddein said.

The amnesty offer came as six alleged informers surrendered to Palestinian police and the body of another suspected collaborator was found in the village of Burkin near Nablus. The victim was shot at the entrance to his house and was said by Palestinian sources to be a known collaborator with Israel.

In a related matter, ARUTZ-7 reported yesterday that Palestinian security forces have been detaining two Israeli Arabs from the Be'er Sheva region for a number of weeks on suspicion they planned to transfer ownership of properties to Jews. The two reportedly are being tortured, and Israel is not taking action on their behalf. A senior IDF officer told Israel's KOL RINA news that he is interested in leaking the story to the press, "as that will be the only chance we have of saving them."

Copyright: ICEJ/Middle East Digest 16th January, 2001

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