Wanted Palestinian terrorist killed in Bulgaria

Wanted terrorist Naif Hassan Omar Zaid was found dead at the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria, local media reported on Friday morning.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Omar Zaid, 51, was convicted along with two others of the murder of yeshiva student Eliyahu Amadi at Jerusalem’s Old City in 1986, when he was 22 years old.

He was sentenced to life in prison, and four years later went on a hunger strike. After 40 days he was transferred to a mental hospital in Bethlehem to receive treatment. Then, in May 1990, he managed to escape the hospital and hide until he was able to flee Israel to one of the Arab countries – where he lived until 1994, when he moved to Bulgaria. The 51 years old, originally from the Palestinian village of Al-Yamun near Jenin in the West Bank, got married in Bulgaria and had three children, all Bulgarian nationals.

He arrived at the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria two months ago after learning he was wanted by Bulgarian police after Israel demanded Sofia to extradite him in December. Bulgarian police even raided his home, but arrived after he had left it.

According to Palestinian sources, after receiving Israel’s extradition request for Omar Zaid, Bulgarian authorities wanted to arrest him for 72 hours in order to deliberate on the request, but he escaped to the embassy before they could get to him.

Bulgarian authorities then set Omar Zaid an ultimatum to force him out of the embassy, but he refused. Meanwhile, Israel was holding a quiet dialogue with Sofia in an effort to bring the affair to an end.

Palestinian Ambassador to Bulgaria Ahmad Madbough set Omar Zaid an ultimatum of his own, giving him 24 hours to turn himself in to Bulgarian authorities – to no avail.

His brother, Hamza, said Omar Zaid would not turn himself in or leave the embassy building because he was tortured and beaten in Israeli prison and was put in isolation for 60 days.

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Bulgarian news websites reported that at 7:35am Friday, emergency services received a call to the embassy for a man seeking urgent medical treatment after a “violent incident.” Omar Zaid, who was found at the embassy’s outside garden with critical injuries to his upper body, was rushed to a local hospital in Sofia, where was declared dead. The Palestinian deputy foreign minister, Tayseer Jaradat, said Omar Zaid was not killed from the shooting in his direction.

One of the reports in Bulgarian media claimed Omar Zaid was dropped to his death. Police investigators and forensics arrived at the scene, with the permission of the Palestinian ambassador.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned “in the strongest terms this heinous crime,” and instructed a commission of inquiry to go to Bulgaria to uncover the circumstances of what happened.

While Abbas avoided pointing the finger at Israel, PFLP and the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club and former minister Issa Karaka, did blame Israel for Omar Zaid’s death.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in response: “Israel did ask for the extradition of Omar Ziad, who is a fugitive, but we heard the news of his murder in the media.”