Former PA Cop Convicted in Lynch of IDF Reservists

A military court in the West Bank yesterday convicted a former member of the Palestinian police force, Raed Sheikh, of the intentional killing of two IDF reserve soldiers during a lynching in Ramallah almost three years ago.

A military court in the West Bank yesterday convicted a former member of the Palestinian police force, Raed Sheikh, of the intentional killing of two IDF reserve soldiers during a lynching in Ramallah almost three years ago.

Vadim Norzhich and Yosef Avrahami were killed in October 2000, at the start of the intifada, after they mistakenly drove their car into the West Bank city. Both reservists were arrested and then beaten to death by Palestinians who stormed the police station where they were being held.

The killings shocked Israel, and TV images of one of the soldiers' bodies being thrown out of the window of the police station to the waiting mob below were widely broadcast.

In handing down their verdict, the judges at the Ofer court determined that Sheikh, a 29-year-old Gazan, was responsible for ordering the soldiers to get out of their car and took them into the police station where the lynching took place.

According to court papers, Sheikh was among a group of both armed and unarmed Palestinian policemen who initially saw the two Israelis approach the police station in their car. After the soldiers, one of whom was in uniform, said they had lost their way, two officers pointed rifles at their heads and led them inside.

An angry mob armed with knives, sticks and metal pipes began gathering as the two were taken to the station commander's office. Sheikh allegedly urged the mob to wait until the soldiers were taken out of the station in a car, "and then they could kidnap the soldiers and kill them."

When the mob finally broke in, Sheikh took a 40-centimeter metal pipe and beat Norjitz with it. "He hit him on the head four of five times and also on other parts of the body, until the soldier started gurgling and was covered with blood," court papers said.

Sheikh and other officers who took part in the murder fled the station. The chief, Khalil Hassan, told officers not to confess to their role and to claim the Israelis were killed by the mob, prosecutors said.

Khamdan, who allegedly kicked one of the soldiers, was charged with disturbing public order and stone-throwing. Sheikh was charged with intentional murder.

In March, a military court sentenced Sa'id Mahmoud Matzleh, a member of Islamic Jihad, to life in prison for his part in the lynching.