A special Palestinian Authority security court on Tuesday sentenced two Fatah men to 15 years in jail for the murder of two Israeli hikers near Hebron about three weeks ago. The court found the two, Ammar Taha, 26, and Ali Dandis, 24, guilty of murder on the basis of their confessions. They were also convicted of "harming the national interests of the Palestinian people." Taha served as a policeman in the Palestinian security forces, while Dandis was a clerk in the Islamic religious (sharia) court in Hebron. The two belonged to Fatah. A third member of the cell, Basel Natsheh, was killed when the two hikers, Ahikam Amihai and David Rubin, opened fire at their attackers. The shooting occurred near the village of Beit Kahil west of Hebron. Immediately after the attack, Taha and Dandis sought refuge with the PA's General Intelligence Force in Hebron out of fear of being caught by the IDF. The two also handed their weapons over to the PA security forces, which later delivered them to Israel. During the one-day trial, Taha and Dandis denied that Hamas or Islamic Jihad were behind the shooting attack. The two Islamist groups, in separate statements, had claimed responsibility for the attack. Relatives of the two who attended the trial remained silent when the chief judge read out the verdict. The defendants also did not react to the court's decision. PA security officials said the two men would serve their sentences in a Hebron jail. They noted that in accordance with agreements signed between the PA and Israel, the Israelis were not entitled to demand the extradition of Palestinians after they had been sentenced to prison by Palestinian courts.