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4 Palestinians Sentenced to Death for Helping Israel - 2001-08-02

The Palestinian Authority has sentenced four Palestinians to death since Tuesday, after convicting them of collaborating with Israel. The action is aimed at deterring informers from helping Israel assassinate Palestinian activists suspected of planning attacks against Jews.

A Palestinian security court in the West Bank city of Nablus has sentenced a Palestinian man to death by firing squad for collaborating with Israel in its killing of a senior activist from the militant Islamic group Hamas.

Ahmad Abu-Ayshah was found guilty of treason for helping Israeli intelligence agents kill Salah Darwaza, whose car was hit by tank shells last week in the West Bank.

Mr. Ayshah, who allegedly received about $45 from Israel each time he passed on information, begged forgiveness from his accusers. But Palestinians in the packed courtroom demanded the execution of Mr. Ayshah, a father of nine children.

He is the fourth Palestinian to be sentenced to death this week for collaborating with Israel.

Israel's policy of assassinating militant Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Islamic leaders has sparked an intense search within Palestinian society for local informers, who may have helped Israel carry out targeted killings.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority acted swiftly in a bid to contain rage and suspicion, following Israel's helicopter gun-ship strike that killed eight people, including two Hamas leaders in the West Bank town of Nablus.

In a strong warning to other suspected collaborators, three Palestinian men were sentenced to death by firing squad for their part in the earlier assassination of Thabet Thabet in Tulkarem, also in the West Bank.

A fourth was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

Mr. Thabet, was a senior member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO.

Mr. Arafat must still ratify the death sentences and although he has approved capital punishment in the past, he has blocked some executions in the face of international criticism.

For such operations as the one in Nablus, Israel has often relied on Palestinian informers, who pass on sensitive information concerning the movements of activists targeted for assassination.

On Monday, in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, three masked men killed a 57-year-old Palestinian, firing bullets into his head, after alleging he had been collaborating with Israel.