Israelis storm Palestinian jail
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
AFP and Reuters have reported that Israeli troops have stormed the Palestinian jail in Jericho in a bid to snatch a prisoner Israel claims is responsible for the assassination of an Israeli Minister five years ago. There are reports that one Palestinian has been killed and at least 18 prisoners and security officials have been wounded.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) demanded the handover of six prisoners, including Ahmed Saadat the alleged instigator of the 2001 assassination of Israeli Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi.
Israeli military officials issued a warning that unless the Jericho prisoners gave themselves up they would be killed.
The leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmed Saadat told Al-Jazeera television in a telephone interview from the jail, "We are not going to surrender. We are going to face our destiny with courage." Mr Saadat told the BBC's Arabic Service, "The occupation are planning a massacre in the Jericho complex. There is shelling from all angles and destroying the prison from all sides."
Saadat also said two of his colleagues had been killed. The troops opened fire with small arms and stun grenades. Israeli soldiers blew up the outer wall of the Jericho prison compound and IDF helicopters fired missiles into the prison. It has been reported that US and British monitors stationed there withdrew before Israeli troops arrived. The Israeli army moved in, bulldozing parts of the prison's outer compound and demanding Saadat's surrender. President Abbas blamed the British and the Americans for the developing crisis. In recent weeks, Abbas signalled he was willing to release Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader, Ahmed Saadat.
Reuters reports that protests have surged across Palestinian territories, with most anger directed at Britain and the United States. Militants set fire to the British cultural centre and stormed the EU compound in Gaza. There have been threats to kidnap and kill foreigners.
"This operation was ordered by the Prime Minister in the fight against terrorism. We are committed to the murderers of minister Rehavam Zeevi remaining behind bars," Gideon Ezra, Israel's Public Security Minister, told public radio.
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