The sources said that Arafat did not draft or approve the details of the attack, but rather agreed to a proposal relayed by one of his high-level aides for the Palestinians to "send a message" to the United States. The idea for the attack came at a time when some Fatah officials complained that American policy towards the PA and the Arabs was unfair.
In the attack, which took place at the Beit Hanoun junction in northern Gaza on Oct. 15, 2003, three American security personnel were killed: John Branchizio, 37, of Texas; John Linde, Jr., 30, of Missouri, and Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey.
The PA recently released four "suspects" in the attack, after having put them on speedy trial two months ago. The trial aroused suspicion from the outset, coming only two days after the United States offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture of the murderers - and less than two weeks after an American threat to freeze aid to the PA unless the matter was resolved. Until then, the PA had refused to cooperate with American law enforcement officials in attempting to find the guilty parties. State Department officials informed the PA at the time that the closed-door trial was unacceptable, and that they demanded "justice" - not a mock trial against four defendants whom the Americans believed to be innocent. "We are very concerned, and demand a true investigation that will bring the guilty parties to justice," said the U.S. statement.