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Family of slain contractor denies ties to Israel

May 20, 1997

EIN YABRUD, West Bank (AP) _ The grieving relatives of a Palestinian man said Tuesday that Israel’s claim he was killed for selling Arab-owned land to Jews is a fabrication designed to sow discord among Palestinians.

At their half-finished home in this village 20 miles north of Jerusalem, the family of Harbi Sara received a trickle of relatives and friends while they drank bitter coffee and listened to taped Islamic incantations.

Wajiha Sara said her modest home was evidence that her husband did not engage in land speculation; the house has three barely furnished rooms for her and her 10 children, and a roofless, half-finished second floor.

Palestinian police recently detained her husband, ``checked that he did not sell any land and he was released,″ she said.

Sara’s body was found Saturday with four bullets in the head, and Palestinian police were investigating claims he was killed for selling land to Jews. It would be the second such killing since Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Medein declared earlier this month that Palestinians selling land to Jews should face the death penalty.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said both killings were ``apparently at the behest of the Palestinian Authority.″ Palestinian officials deny any connection.

``We have no doubt that the Palestinian Authority is not responsible for his killing,″ said nephew Khaled Sara. He said Israel invented the idea ``to serve its political ends.″

Some, including nephew Zaydoun Sara, said the Palestinian Authority tainted the family’s good name even by investigating.

The family believes Sara, 48, was killed by relatives of a neighbor whom he had accused of murder in 1993 and testified against. That man, an Arab-American named Azam Muslah, later died in Palestinian police custody.

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