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Palestinian Gunmen Storm Court, Slay 3 Convicted Killers - 2002-02-05

Palestinian gunmen, backed by an angry mob, stormed into a Palestinian military court in the West Bank Tuesday and killed three men. The three had just been convicted of killing a policeman.

Eyewitnesses say hundreds of Palestinians, including several masked gunmen, forced police aside and burst into the court building in the West Bank town of Jenin.

The gunmen then opened fire, killing the three convicted men. They then dragged the bodies into the streets and shot into the air in triumph.

The victims had just been convicted of murdering Osama Qmeil. Two of the three killed had been sentenced to death and the third to 15 years hard labor.

The three told the presiding judge of the military tribunal in Jenin, they had acted in revenge for the killing of six people by Mr. Qmeil a decade ago.

A member of the Palestinian security services, Mr. Qmeil was suspected of killing Palestinians who collaborated with Israel.

Witnesses say many of those who stormed the courtroom belonged to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, the security forces, or were relatives of Mr. Qmeil.

He was killed last week, after he was lured to a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jenin.

In other developments Tuesday, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with the chief of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suliman, at Mr. Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

An Arafat adviser said Mr. Suliman carried a letter from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak containing proposals for helping the Palestinian Authority end the conflict with Israel. The adviser gave no more information on the meeting.