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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 18:55 GMT
Explosions, smoke and angry crowds
An Israeli army raid on a Palestinian jail sparked a wave of kidnappings and protest in the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday. Witnesses described what they saw.

About 30 women wearing the traditional hijab gathered outside the jail when news broke of the Israeli operation, the BBC News website's Martin Patience reported from Jericho.

A tyre is burned as protesting Palestinians take to the streets of Ramallah
The raid sparked a wave of protests
"They appeared to have turned up to the prison for news of their husbands, sons and relatives," he said.

"One woman, seeing her husband or son stripped to his underwear, ran forward to embrace him.

"She was, however, stopped from reaching him by an Israeli soldier."

Other BBC staff saw gangs of youths gathered near the prison throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers, he said.

"One Palestinian teenager stood in front of an Israeli military 4WD vehicle preventing it from going any further. 'Run me down!' he screamed. 'Run me down!'"

Speaking earlier, our correspondent reported seeing the occasional military jeep and ambulance leave the town but said few people were on the streets because of a curfew.

I see Israeli army bulldozers tearing away at the remaining walls of the prison
Jeannie Assad
BBC reporter

He went on: "Black smoke can be seen blowing across the city from the site of the prison.

"Every 10 minutes or so, loud explosions echo through the valley. Two Apache helicopters are flying high above."

The BBC's Jeannie Assad, one of the few journalists in Jericho as the raid took place, said intensive gunfire could be heard many hours into the operation.

"I see Israeli army bulldozers tearing away at the remaining walls of the prison," she said.

Surrender call

One Palestinian family told the AFP news agency their teenage son had been hit and seriously wounded by an Israeli bullet after throwing stones near the prison.

People are very angry, I can feel it everywhere
Lama Hourani
Gaza City resident

Earlier, local Palestinian commander Akram Rajoub told the Associated Press hundreds of Israeli troops had stormed the town and used loudspeakers to call on prisoners to surrender.

Television footage showed those who had surrendered, stripped to their underwear and being led away by Israeli forces.

Reprisal fears

In Gaza City, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets, targeting European, British and US buildings and threatening to kidnap their citizens.

NGO worker Lama Hourani told the BBC News website the children at her son's school had been sent home early because their foreign teachers were afraid of reprisals.

Israeli forces and captured Palestinian prisoners
Israeli forces rounded up Palestinian prisoners and guards

She said things had calmed down since the morning, but Hamas and other groups were calling for further protests.

"I can hear calls for protests now in the streets through the microphones," she said.

"People are very angry, I can feel it everywhere."

Simon Boas, whose office overlooks the British Council building in the West Bank town of Ramallah, watched as up to 300 people marched towards it and it was attacked.

"Probably the first 30 or 40 managed to get inside and began smashing the windows. The sign has been smashed off and I'm just watching the situation from my roof up here," he said.

Palestinian police then turned up and fired warnings to disperse the crowd, he said.

"However, there are still people in the building and there seems to be no attempt yet by people to enter the building," he told BBC radio.

"Many of the demonstrators are now fighting back with - I guess - a lot of the stuff that's been prudently chucked out of the building."




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