Palestinians Kill Suspected Collaborators
NABLUS, West Bank (AP) _ Masked Palestinian gunmen killed two men suspected of being informers for Israel, then displayed their bodies Thursday in the central square of a West Bank refugee camp, witnesses and Palestinian security officials said.
In other developments, an associate of Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian leader was set on edge by an Israeli army raid near his West Bank compound earlier this week. Arafat reportedly clutched a submachine gun as he shouted out orders at security guards and declared that he feels ``the smell of paradise.″
Amid continued violence in the West Bank, Israel plans to build 273 apartments in Jewish settlements. A U.S.-backed peace plan seeks a building freeze in the settlements.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it is investigating the high number of casualties reported by Palestinians in a missile strike earlier this week in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The army has said it fired at a target on an empty street, but a video of the attack indicated that people were in nearby alleys at the time.
Early Thursday, two suspected informers were killed in the Tulkarem refugee camp and the bodies were displayed for about 15 minutes before relatives took the bodies away.
Israeli intelligence makes frequent use of Palestinian informants to target wanted Palestinians, and dozens of suspected collaborators have been killed by fellow Palestinians during three years of violence.
The two men were abducted two weeks ago, along with six other men, on suspicion of giving away the hideout of a wanted member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militant group loosely linked to Arafat’s Fatah faction.
A member of Al Aqsa said the men were kidnapped and interrogated by Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-funded group that often cooperates with Al Aqsa in the northern West Bank. The Al Aqsa member said the two groups carried out the killings together ``to share the honor.″
The confessions were videotaped and shown in the central square Wednesday night, witnesses said. The six other suspects were released.
Just after daylight Thursday, the two suspected collaborators were taken into an alley and shot at close range, said a witness who asked not to be identified. The bullet-riddled bodies were then dragged to the central square and propped up for camp residents to see, witnesses said.
Separately, an aide to Arafat said he visited the Palestinian leader at his Ramallah headquarters Tuesday night as Israeli forces surrounded a mosque about a half-mile away.
Arafat, who has been confined to the city for nearly two years, feared that Israeli troops might come after him, the aide said, declining to be identified. Arafat was holding a submachine gun in addition to his pistol, and was closing windows and shouting orders at his guards to take up positions.
When the aide told him the Israeli operation was small in scale, Arafat said, ``You don’t know them. I do, so I have to be careful,″ the aide said.
Arafat then insisted that he would not be taken alive if the Israelis try to expel him.
``I feel the smell of paradise,″ Arafat reportedly said.
Israel has said it would remove Arafat at an unspecified time, but not explained whether this means expulsion or assassination. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said this week that Arafat is the main obstacle to peace, but in an earlier newspaper interview backtracked from threats to expel the Palestinian leader.
The Peace Now settlement monitoring group said Israel’s Infrastructure Ministry has issued building tenders for 273 apartments in the West Bank settlements of Karnei Shomron, located deep within the northern West Bank, and Givat Zeev, which is near Jerusalem. Ministry officials confirmed the report.
The U.S.-backed ``road map″ peace plan calls on Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas where the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state.
Also Thursday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to give him ideas on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he would raise during talks with President Bush later this year, according to Jordan’s official Petra news agency.
Meanwhile, the army said it was continuing to investigate Monday night’s deadly air strike in the Nusseirat refugee camp in Gaza. It fired two missiles at a car believed to be carrying Palestinian militants.
The military has said it did not fire into a crowd. But a review of the video shot by a military drone shows that after the first missile strike, camp residents began running through an alley toward the main street, the site of the explosion.
People appeared as tiny black dots in the grainy, blurred footage, and there seem to be about two dozen in the alley, although it is difficult to determine the exact number.
Eight people were killed, including a man who died Wednesday from his wounds. Seventy people were wounded. Israel says at least four of the dead were Palestinian militants; Palestinian security and hospital officials say all those killed in the camp were civilians.
In other violence, a Palestinian man died Thursday of wounds suffered when a car he was traveling in exploded Wednesday night in the Balata refugee camp next to West Bank city of Nablus, hospital officials said. The man was identified as Rais Khaled.
Two other Palestinians, one of them a Hamas activist, were seriously injured when a car exploded, Palestinian security officials said. The officials said explosives in the car detonated accidentally, but Hamas blamed Israel for the blast.