Arafat's Forces Execute Rapist-Murderer

A Palestinian firing squad on Wednesday executed a convicted killer and rapist in the courtyard of Yasser Arafat's compound.

The execution took place as Palestinian Cabinet ministers were arriving for a meeting. Reporters covering the Cabinet session heard the burst of gunshots.

Bashir Atari, 26, was sentenced to death in a one-day trial Sunday for raping his grandmother and killing two elderly women. Ramallah Police Chief Mohammed Salah said Atari was mentally ill.

Atari had been held in a jail in Arafat's compound, but escaped in June when Israeli forces entered the Palestinian leader's headquarters. He was captured two weeks ago near his home village of Atara.

On Wednesday, Atari was brought into the compound in a car, his hands tied behind his back. He was allowed to speak with a Muslim cleric before being led to the courtyard and blindfolded, a security guard said.

The execution was carried out by three security officials in civilian clothing, the guard said. Reporters were not allowed to watch the execution, but heard about 10 gunshots.

A security official said the execution was coordinated with Israeli forces now controlling Ramallah. Israeli tanks surrounded the compound at the time.