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Palestinians Condemn, Israel Welcomes, Saddam Execution

The Palestinians have condemned the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israeli officials have welcomed it.

Many Palestinians are mourning the death of Saddam Hussein, who is widely regarded as a hero in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After the Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000, Saddam paid the families of each suicide bomber $25,000 and he gave $10,000 to the families of gunmen killed in fighting with Israel. He also fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Therefore, Saddam is seen by many Palestinians as one of the only Arab leaders who stood up to Israel and the United States. He is being remembered in the Palestinian territories as a martyr, especially since his last words were reportedly, "Palestine is Arab."

"We strongly condemn this unjust execution for the Arab leader, Saddam Hussein," said a man on the street in Gaza.

Palestinians in the West Bank town of Bethlehem opened a "house of condolences," where dozens of people gathered to mourn the Iraqi leader. At a march in Gaza, participants displayed a poster with Saddam's picture next to that of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The mood was much different in Israel, where officials were glad to bid farewell to a man they saw as a supporter of Palestinian terrorism and a threat to the Jewish state.

Deputy Premier Shimon Peres said Saddam's execution "was a historic case of justice that does justice to history."

Cabinet Minister Yaakov Edri said Israel can breathe a sigh of relief.

Edri said all the enemies of the Jewish people will suffer the same fate as Saddam, including the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.