The BBC reports:
Israeli troops have stormed a prison in the West Bank town of Jericho, demanding the handover of a Palestinian militant Ahmed Saadat.
Mr Saadat, who Israel blames for the assassination of a minister in 2001, has refused to surrender. [See the linked Jerusalem Post story below for the bacground: “Sa’adat, the secretary general of the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine is believed to have masterminded Ze’evi’s assasination. He never stood trial but was included in the deal struck with the Palestinian Authority whereby he, together with five others involved in Ze’evi’s murder would be transferred to Jericho jail where they would be supervised by British and US agents. Prior to their leaving Yasser Arafat’s Mukata compound in Ramallah to be transferred to Jericho, Arafat held a kangaroo court in his office and sentenced the four cell members.”]
Hamdi Koran, who pulled the trigger and was sentenced to 18 years hard labor, Basel al Amar, sentenced to 12 years hard labor, Majdi Rimawi to eight years and Ahed Gholam to one year.
A British cultural centre in Gaza has been set ablaze and an EU compound stormed, in what appears to be a response to events in Jericho.
A Palestinian official has said two French citizens have been kidnapped.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have been demonstrating against the Israeli operation in Jericho.
Palestinian militants from the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Gaza City have warned US and UK nationals to leave the Palestinian territories immediately.
Reports from Jericho said Mr Saadat, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and several of his colleagues were refusing to come out of the prison.
Al-Jazeera TV has broadcast a telephone interview with Mr Saadat in which he says he is in his prison cell and will not surrender.
Mr Saadat is normally guarded by British and US prison warders, in addition to Palestinian jailers, but they were withdrawn on Tuesday for what they described as security reasons.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the raid and said the US and UK warders were responsible for the prisoners’ safety.
He said the withdrawal of the British and US guards who normally observe the prison was a grave violation of agreements with the Palestinians.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the PA had ignored repeated British requests for guarantees regarding the security of the prison gaurds.
Israeli troops are reported to have threatened to kill the prisoners if they do not surrender…
The Jerusalem Post account of events is here. The Post adds:
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra told Israel Radio that once it became evident that the international monitors had left the compound, as per the announcement of UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw, there was no other choice but to capture the PFLP operatives, who were likely to be released by the Hamas-led PA government.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he is holding Britain and the US responsible for the Israeli raid on the prison and demanded that Israeli forces withdraw.
“The American and the British side bear full responsibility for any harm to the lives” of the prisoners, Abbas said in a statement released by his office.
The decision by the foreign guards to leave their posts “is a grave violation of agreements reached in 2002,” the statement said.
The army said there was no coordination with the US and UK guards, but a contingency plan was in place for such an event.
The Post also quotes Straw’s statement on the withdrawal of the guards:
“The UK and the US have repeatedly raised our concerns over the security of our monitors with the Palestinian Authority and urged them to meet their obligations under the Ramallah agreement. Unfortunately, there has been no improvement. The Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to meet its obligations under the Ramallah Agreement.”
The BBC story includes the usual sickening notes that color its stories related to Israel. To take only one sentence:
The killing of right-wing Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi by PFLP gunmen in 2001, an attack which itself was to avenge the assassination of Mr Saadat’s predecessor by Israel.
UPDATE: YNET News reports: “Prison siege over: Detainees surrender.”