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Sunday, December 14, 2003

Palestinians pained by Saddam capture

JPost: For many ordinary Palestinians, the TV footage of a disheveled Saddam obediently submitting to a medical exam by his U.S. captors was painful to watch: it sealed the defeat of the one Arab leader they felt always stood by them.

Saddam should have put up a fight or committed suicide, they said, and his surrender is a stain on Arab honor. "It is a big defeat for all Arabs and Muslims," said Raji Hassan, 29, watching TV with friends in a Gaza City coffee shop.

The Palestinian Authority declined official comment. While Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had supported Saddam in the 1991 Gulf War, his government had been careful to stay on the sidelines during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq this year.

Mohammed Horani, a legislator from Arafat's ruling Fatah movement, said he expected many Palestinians and Arabs to have mixed feelings. "Saddam is a dictator and the Iraqi people suffered under him, but on the other hand, it was the (America! n) occupation that caught him," he said. "There will be a sense of confusion in the public."

Horani said he had expected Saddam to be more courageous. "I had expected him to have fought back, or at least end his life," he said. "But then again, all dictators are cowards."

During the past three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, Saddam sent millions of dollars to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including US$25,000 for the family of each suicide bomber and US$10,000 for each Palestinian killed in fighting with Israelis.

In the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam attacked Israel with 39 Scud missiles, in the failed hope of breaking up an Arab coalition against him. When the Iraqi missiles flew over the West Bank, en route to targets in Israel, Palestinians would often cheer.

On Sunday, about a dozen men were playing pool in Gaza City hall while the news was being broadcast on a television in the corner. No one even turned to look at the television.

"I ! love him so much, I can't stand watching it while he's in custody," Raafat Logman, 23, said as he was shooting pool. "We are surprised. We are so sad," said Sameh Aloul, 22.
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