Ze'evi killer pleads guilty

Quran tells the court he was instructed by a member of the PFLP.

A Palestinian suspected of murdering tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi pleaded guilty in a Jerusalem court Monday, six years after the first assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister. Hamdi Quran, 33, entered the guilty plea during a hearing on the murder case at the Jerusalem District Court. Quran told the court he was instructed by a member of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to murder Ze'evi in the beginning of 2001, contradicting previous claims by the small Palestinian terror organization that they had carried out the murder in retaliation for Israel's killing of a PFLP leader responsible for a number of bombings in his Ramallah office weeks earlier. Ze'evi, who had refused to be accompanied by a bodyguard, was gunned down outside his Jerusalem hotel room on October 17, 2001, as he returned to his room after breakfasting with his wife. Ze'evi, a retired major-general, frequented the hotel while on parliamentary business. Over breakfast, Ze'evi told his wife that he noticed a man of Arab appearance staring at him, and then headed to their room alone. Quran told the court that after spotting Ze'evi in the hotel's dining room at 10 minutes to seven, he and fellow PFLP member Basel al-Asmar took their positions near the elevator on the eighth floor of Jerusalem's former Hyatt Hotel on Mount Scopus, where Ze'evi's room was located, where they shot him three times in the head before fleeing. The cabinet minister, who was fatally wounded in the head and neck, was found some minutes later by his wife, Yael, who was returning to their room from breakfast. Her cries alerted hotel guests, who had heard a thud but no shot ring out, as the assailants had used a silencer. His killers quickly fled the scene, easily escaping to the nearby West Bank as part of their well-planned attack. Ze'evi was rushed to Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem but was pronounced dead about two hours later after all resuscitation efforts failed. After the murder, Quran was incarcerated by Palestinian police in the quiet West Bank city of Jericho under British and American supervision in accordance with a 2002 deal reached between President Bush and the former prime minister Ariel Sharon, after the men had been surrounded by Israeli forces during an army raid in Ramallah. Last year, Israel decided to capture Quran and four other cell members involved in the killing due to the PA's violation of agreements concerning their imprisonment. Four Palestinian seized in the brazen daytime raid were subsequently charged with Ze'evi's assassination. But, in an unexpected legal blow, Israel's attorney-general ruled that there was insufficient evidence to try the PFLP leader Ahmed Saadat, who was also nabbed in the raid for the Ze'evi murder.