Saddam Rewards Suicide Bombers' Families

ByABC News
December 19, 2002, 12:04 PM

G A Z A  C I T Y, Gaza Strip, Jan. 2 -- On the front steps of the tattered YMCA here, people walk on mock Israeli and American flags arranged as doormats. Inside, the stage is festooned with Iraqi and Palestinian flags.

A large banner depicts the Al Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest sites, dripping in blood. In one corner, the larger-than-life faces of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein smile side by side on a poster.

After 50 minutes of fiery speeches praising Saddam and Arafat and vilifying President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 25 Palestinians are called to the stage one by one. Each is handed a check a gift from Saddam Hussein.

Each recipient is the mother, father, wife or other close relative of either a suicide bomber or someone killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers or security guards at settlements in the Gaza Strip or West Bank.

Today's donation: a total of $285,000 a princely sum in the economically distressed Gaza Strip.

One of the recipients is Nada Mahdi, a 22-year-old student, who arrived for the ceremony carrying her 3-month-old son, Ismail. Her husband, Mohammad, blew himself up last month trying to attack an Israeli military post in the Gaza Strip. There were no other injuries in the incident.

"I am proud of him," she says in Arabic after collecting her $25,000 check. "May God reward him."

Soliciting Murder?

In the two years of the renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq has given Palestinian families more than $10 million, all according to a well-known scale. Families of suicide bombers get $25,000 each and families of those killed in confrontations with Israel get $10,000. Those who houses are destroyed by the Israeli military get $5,000 and those wounded by Israelis get $1,000.

President Bush says the money rewards and solicits murder. An official of the charity that distributes the money says it symbolizes solidarity between Iraqis and Palestinians both, he says, targets of American aggression.