Sources: Palestinians held in deadly Gaza attack ordered released
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- A judge Sunday ordered the release of four Palestinians detained in connection with an October bombing on a U.S. diplomatic convoy that killed three American security guards, Palestinian security sources said.
The detainees appeared before the judge earlier in the day in a secret military court, the sources said.
The four were detained several weeks ago and will be released later in the day, the sources said, but only after Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat authorizes the judge's decision.
The October 15 roadside bombing in Gaza City killed three security personnel working for the U.S. military contractor DynCorp. The security guards were protecting diplomats traveling into Gaza to interview Palestinian candidates for Fulbright Scholarship grants in the United States. A fourth guard was wounded in the attack.
According to the U.S. State Department, the roadside bomb was triggered immediately after Palestinian police cars in the convoy passed by, hitting the U.S. vehicle.
Shortly after the bombing, President Bush blamed it on Palestinian officials, saying they "should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms." Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei strongly condemned the attack, offered his condolences and promised an investigation.
The United States was not told in advance about the order to release the detainees, according to U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin in Tel Aviv.
"Our interests remain the same," Patin said. "We want this pursued vigorously, and we want those responsible for this crime arrested, convicted and punished."
The U.S. State Department has offered a reward of up to $ 5 million for information on those responsible for the bombing. (Full story)
In addition to the reward, those providing information may be eligible for protection of their identities and relocation with their families.
3 Palestinians killed in Gaza
Israeli troops on Sunday shot and killed three Palestinians in Gaza who were attempting to lay an explosive charge along a road used by Jewish settlers, according to Israeli military sources.
Israeli troops patrolling the area saw the three near the Karni-to-Netzarim road in central Gaza. The sources said the Palestinians were inside a prohibited area where Palestinians had launched previous attacks on Israeli targets.
The troops found an explosive device with the three bodies, the sources said.
Palestinian security officials confirmed the three deaths but had no further details.
CNN's Talal Aburahma and Yoav Appel contributed to this report.