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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 13:19 GMT
Israel's 'assassination policy' on trial
Israeli troops
It is not clear what guidelines Israel is following
By Paul Adams in Jerusalem

Israel's High Court of Justice is hearing an appeal against a policy of assassination carried out by the Israeli army during the past two months.

At least 12 Palestinian officials and leaders have been killed in cold blood since early November.

Israeli peace activists have condemned the killings, which in some cases have been admitted by Israeli officials.

The appeal is being brought on behalf of Siham Thabet, whose husband Thabet Thabet was gunned down as he left his West Bank home on 31 December.

Thabet Thabet's car
Thabet Thabet was killed by five bullets to the chest

He was not armed and there was no fighting going on in the area at the time.

Thabet Thabet was a close associate of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the most senior Palestinian official killed in this way since Israel began its policy of assassination.

The first such killing took place on 9 November, when Israeli helicopter gunships rocketed a car, killing a local militia commander near Bethlehem.

Bystanders killed

In that operation, two women bystanders were also killed.

Siham Thabet argues that it would have been extremely easy for Israeli soldiers to arrest her husband, but that they chose to execute him instead.

Her lawyer is asking the High Court to instruct the Defence Ministry to stop the policy of assassination.

Open policy

Israeli peace activists are hoping that Tuesday's appeal will at least force the government to admit openly that the policy exists.

Officials have been remarkably candid on occasion, saying that Israel will target anyone it believes is associated with violent attacks against Israelis.

But it is still not clear what guidelines Israel is following in pursuit of a policy of dubious legal standing.

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