Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Saturday, 5 April 2008 15:13 UK

Militants flee Palestinian jail

West Bank map

Twelve Palestinian militants have fled from a prison in the West Bank town of Nablus, saying they had been beaten up by security forces at the jail.

The 12 were in Jneid prison under a deal offering amnesty from Israel in return for surrendering weapons and three months' Palestinian detention.

They belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of the Fatah movement.

Nablus Governor Jamal al-Muhaisen urged the men to return to the jail.

We gave up our weapons according to an agreement but we received nothing in return
Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh
Fleeing militant

"If they want to come back they are welcome but we won't let them move freely or carry weapons."

Last month a Nablus gunman involved in the amnesty was shot dead by Israeli troops after fleeing the jail.

One of the detainees, senior commander Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh, told AFP their deal had been broken.

"We left the prison because of the aggression on the part of masked members of the national security forces against the detainees," he said.

"We gave up our weapons according to an agreement but we received nothing in return.

"They told us if you give up your weapons and spend three months in jail, there will be an amnesty and the Israeli army will stop its operations in Nablus but nothing happened."

Israel and the United States have repeatedly urged the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, to take action against militant groups, as part of efforts to advance peace negotiations.

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