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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Palestinians sentenced to death
Accused Palestinians in court
Palestinians accuse Israel of assassinating activists
Three Palestinians have been sentenced to death by a Palestinian security court for collaborating with Israel.

The men were convicted of helping Israeli agents kill a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank town of Tulkarem at the end of last year.

Samer Aby Zaneh, 21, Amjad Hafayzha, 28, and Hussein Abu Aliyoun, 32, were sentenced to die by firing squad.

Two other Palestinians were found guilty of involvement in the death of the official, Thabet Thabet.

Mohammed Abed Rahman, 17, was sentenced to 15 years in jail, while Hatam Mari was found mentally unsound and released.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
The death sentences must be ratified by Yasser Arafat
Mr Thabet, a leader of the Palestinian Fatah faction, was gunned down outside his home on 31 December, 2000.

Israeli media reported that one of the men admitted informing Israeli intelligence of Mr Thabet's movements in a message sent from his mobile phone.

Palestinian officials blamed the killing on Israel, which they said deliberately targeted Mr Thabet.

Israeli denial

Palestinians say Israeli special forces have killed about 50 Palestinian activists since the current uprising began last September.

Israel denied singling out Mr Thabet and said he was killed in crossfire during a gun battle.

The verdicts were passed after a rushed 10-minute hearing, held after an Israeli missile attack on a building in the town in which eight Palestinians died.

After the sentences were read out, spectators in the packed chamber shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) while outside the court gunmen fired their rifles into the air.

The death sentences must be ratified by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat before they can be carried out.

In January, two Palestinians were publicly executed after being found guilty of collaborating with Israel, provoking heavy criticism from human rights groups.

See also:

01 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel's undercover assassins
01 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel on alert for revenge attacks
31 Jul 01 | Middle East
Profile: Hamas activist Jamal Mansour
31 Jul 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Israel hits Hamas leaders
01 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Human tragedy of Middle East conflict
31 Dec 00 | Middle East
Mid-East killings spark revenge fears
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