Gaza Man Given Three Life Sentences for Leading Group Linked to Murders

A Gaza military court imposed three life sentences plus 30 years Sunday on a Gaza Strip resident convicted of running a terrorist ring whose members kidnapped and murdered two Israel Defense Force soldiers in 1989.

Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon disappeared within weeks of each other. Both were last seen waiting to hitch rides home on leave from their military base near the Gaza Strip.

Sasportas’ body was eventually found, but not Sa’adon’s.

Mohammad Sharatha, 34, of Jabalya village pleaded guilty to all charges. He was accused of running a terrorist cell of Hamas, a Moslem fundamentalist group established in the Gaza Strip shortly after the intifada began in 1987.

He recruited and trained two killers who wore yarmulkes and drove stolen Israeli cars. They offered rides to the soldiers and, once inside the car, shot them to death.

The actual killers of Sasportas and Sa’adon crossed the border into Egypt and escaped to Libya.

Sharatha was arrested for murder. In the course of his interrogation, he revealed details of other attacks on Israeli civilians in the Gaza Strip, including shootings.

A riot erupted in the court when Sharatha declared he was proud of what he had done.

Members of the Sa’adon family tried to grab a rifle from a guard. A rifle magazine was thrown at relatives of the defendant.

Scores of police had to intervene. The Sa’adon family was ejected and prevented from re-entering the courtroom.

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