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Palestinians Execute 'Collaborator' in Town Square
By REUTERS

Filed at 7:19 a.m. ET

QABATIYA, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian militants publicly executed an accused collaborator with Israel with machineguns in a West Bank town square on Friday after a throng of Palestinian onlookers called for him to die.

Wild celebrations broke out among the hundreds of spectators after four gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, shot father-of-two Muhammad Rafiq Daraghmeh, 45, in Qabatiya.

Militants had hustled Daraghmeh into the square before assembled townsfolk and told them: ``This man, as you know ... gave information to Israel on the whereabouts of our fighters. What should his sentence be?''

``Execution!'' roared the crowd.

The militants gunned down Daraghmeh seconds later and residents both young and old cheered and chanted around his prone, bloodied corpse. A Reuters correspondent witnessed the execution.

Militant groups have killed at least 30 compatriots accused of being informers for Israeli forces fighting an almost four-year-old revolt in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Qabatiya residents said Daraghmeh had guided soldiers to hideouts of militants where they were captured or killed.

``It was necessary to make (Daraghmeh) an example for others to deter them from collaborating,'' said Jamal Abu Rab, local commander of the Brigades and regarded as the town's strongman.

A relative of Daraghmeh said he had been disowned by his clan. ``What he did was shameful. We considered him no longer one of us. We don't know if we will even retrieve his body for burial,'' said the cousin, who asked not to be named.

But some residents were quietly critical of the execution. ``Daraghmeh should have been tried in a Palestinian court so he could defend himself. Only a judge can pass sentence, to avoid random killing,'' said a town worker.

Palestinian Authority officials also voiced dismay.

``We want every act to be carried out via legal channels and oppose anyone who behaves otherwise. However, we are incapable of enforcing law and order in Palestinian areasoccupation,'' said Local Government Minister Jamal al-Shobaki.

SPREADING VIGILANTISM

Militants defend executions of collaborators by saying Palestinian security forces are powerless to act because they have been crippled by the Israeli army clampdown on the uprising for statehood, or by their own internal feuding.

The Authority has bemoaned spreading vigilantism but also Israel's assassinations of many prominent militant faction leaders in air strikes.

Israel's increasing success in pinpointing the shadowy movements of militant leaders and pre-empting suicide bombings by catching perpetrators en route to their targets is due partly to an effective network of Palestinian informers.

Dozens of suspected informers have been in Authority jails for years while others increasingly fear for their lives since Israel tracked down and killed Hamas leaders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in Gaza in March and April.

Many alleged turncoats have been motivated by money in an impoverished region with massive unemployment, Palestinian security officials say. Rare travel privileges and sexual inducements have also been reported.

Security officials have urged militants to turn over suspects for investigation and prosecution rather than engage in vigilantism often driven by rumor or a desire to settle scores.

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