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US Renews Reward for Information on Murder of Americans in Gaza - 2004-02-05

The United States has renewed its offer of a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the murder of three Americans in a roadside bombing last October in Gaza.

Palestinians willing to come forward with information are offered protection of their identities and relocation of their families, as well as up to $5 million.

The decision of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to publish the offer in Palestinian newspapers appeared to be a response to an allegation from Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's security advisor, Jibril Rajoub. He accused the United States of political blackmail for placing a ban on American officials visiting Gaza until the Palestinian police find those responsible for the attack.

Mr. Rajoub said this is a deliberate attempt to halt distribution of American aid to Palestinians.

But State Department officials Wednesday dismissed Mr. Rajoub's claims as "ridiculous" and say the United States remains fully engaged in the peace process.

The reward offer relates to the killing of three American security guards on October 15, as they were traveling in a U.S. diplomatic convoy towards Gaza City. The convoy was taking diplomats to interview potential students for the Fulbright Scholarship program when the deadly explosion ocurred.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say they are angry that the Palestinian Authority has failed to capture those behind the killings. The U.S. officials say they find it inconceivable that Palestinian militants could have planned and carried out such an attack without the knowledge of the Palestinian leadership.