As allied forces began their assault on Iraq on Thursday, families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel received $210,000 from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Iraq has paid out more than $35 million to the families of suicide bombers and Palestinian civilians who have been killed in the nearly 30 months of Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Via a tiny pro-Iraq faction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Hussein's regime handed out $10,000 checks to the families of 21 Palestinians, including a member of Hamas -- an Islamic militant group that has killed hundreds of Israelis and is on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.
A leader of the pro-Iraq group told the families and hundreds of onlookers in a main square of Khan Yunis, a town on Gaza's border with Egypt, that the Iraqi regime would continue to support them.
Several men from the group fired submachine guns into the air each time Hussein's name was mentioned. Families receiving the money held Iraqi flags and pictures of the Iraqi president.
The payments have made Iraq popular among many Palestinians.
Most Palestinians oppose the U.S. offensive against Baghdad as unjustified, though many also consider Hussein to be a cruel dictator.
About 1,500 Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza City in an antiwar rally Thursday, chanting anti-U.S. sentiments. Some waved pictures of Hussein and burned American and British flags.
Abdelaziz Shahin, a Palestinian Cabinet minister who attended the rally, said the U.S.-led strike is a war "against all the Arabs and Muslims. It shows the real face of Bush."