Published March 13, 2003
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Saddam Hussein has given $260,000 to 26 families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel, including the family of a Hamas suicide bomber.
In a packed banquet hall on Wednesday, the families came one-by-one to receive $10,000 checks. A large banner said: "The Arab Baath Party Welcomes the Families of the Martyrs for the Distribution of Blessings of Saddam Hussein."
The money -- handed out by the Arab Liberation Front, which is affiliated with Saddam's Baath Party -- was distributed as the United States tried to get U.N. Security Council support to use military force to rid Iraq of banned arms and oust Saddam.
Among the families were those whose children and relatives died carrying out Islamic Jihad and Hamas attacks. Both groups are on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations. Other families had relatives killed during Israeli raids on Palestinian towns and refugee camps.
Iraq gives $10,000 within 30 days to the families of those killed. In total, Saddam has given more than $35 million to West Bank and Gaza Strip families of Palestinians killed during the fighting, said Ibrahim Zanen, spokesman for the Arab Liberation Front in Gaza.
"President Saddam considers the Palestinian people as part of his Arab nation. Both of us, the Iraqis and the Palestinians, are in the same trench facing an ugly aggression," Zanen said. "The President considers this small gift to the families as just a symbol of support for those who have reached the highest degree of martyrdom."
Israel said the payments prove Saddam's link to terrorism.
"It shows that Saddam is involved in every activity that is terrorism and murderous and leads to instability in the Middle East," said Amira Oron, a spokeswoman for Israel's Foreign Ministry.
Tahseen Maghani's son, Hamas militant Karam, was killed when trying to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Netzarim. He said he would use the money to plant crops and build a house.
"These are tough times for Saddam, but his kindness will help us a lot. Saddam is the only one that has stood with us," Maghani said, adding that he is proud his son died for his nation.
Ihdiya Akawi, whose brother, Iyad, was killed during an army raid on a Gaza neighborhood, said her mother was too depressed to attend the ceremony. Iyad fought Israeli troops along with other gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.