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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 03:54 GMT
Israel sceptical about arrest
PFLP supporters demonstrate against the arrest of the group's leader, Ahmed Saadat
PFLP: The arrest is a dangerous development
Israel says it wants proof that Palestinian police have arrested Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

"Until I see him behind bars, I won't believe it," Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told the Reuters news agency.

"We've been disappointed so many times and fed up with so many announcements that they've arrested someone."

This is a political action, which has very dangerous political consequences

PFLP official Abdel Rahim Mallouh
PFLP officials said Mr Saadat, who has been at the top of Israel's most-wanted list since the group said it assassinated the Israeli Tourism Minister, Rehavam Zeevi, last October, was arrested in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday evening.

Zeevi's death sparked a six-week blockade of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by the Israeli army.

Israel said it would not leave Ramallah until Mr Saadat was arrested and Zeevi's assassins turned in.

Palestinian Authority criticised

The PFLP described the arrest as a "dangerous development".

Coffin of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi
The Israelis have barricaded Arafat since Zeevi's death
Mr Saadat's deputy, Abdel Rahim Mallouh, said the leader had been detained during a meeting with a Palestinian Authority official.

"This is a political action, which has very dangerous political consequences," Mr Mallouh was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

"We consider this a response that they have accepted all American pressure and Israeli demands," he said.

West Bank shootings

The news of the arrest follows the killing of two Israelis on Tuesday who died when gunmen opened fire on their vehicles in separate incidents in the West Bank.

An Israeli woman was killed and a passenger injured in a shooting outside the Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, local security officials reported.

Hours earlier, the body of a 72-year-old Israeli man, Avi Boaz, had been pulled from a bullet-ridden car in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem.

Tuesday's attacks - and the killing of a soldier on Monday - follow the suspicious death of Raed al-Karmi, the head of an armed faction linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

In light of the renewed violence, the return of US envoy Anthony Zinni, originally planned for this week, appears to be on hold, according to US and Israeli officials.

Palestinian officials said that bilateral security meetings, which resumed during Mr Zinni's last visit, have been postponed since the retired US general left more than a week ago.

Cry for revenge

Many of the thousands of mourners attending Mr al-Karmi's funeral on Tuesday had called for revenge against Israel, whom they believe was responsible for the explosion which killed him on Monday in the West Bank city of Tulkarm.

A woman mourns the death of Sergeant Elad Abu Gani, who was killed on Monday by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank
Three Israelis have been killed since the death of Raed al-Karmi
Israeli security sources have told the BBC that Israeli agents were behind the blast although the government has not officially admitted responsibility for his death.

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said Mr al-Karmi had been killed in a "work accident", implying he had been killed handling his own bomb.

"He was about to undertake other attacks in the coming days, and those who believed for moral reasons that one has to wait until dozens of Israelis are killed before reacting are simply wrong," he said.

The BBC's James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem
"The Israelis don't yet believe Ahmed Saadat is really under arrest"
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Activist
"This is a big mistake made by the Palestinian Authority"
See also:

14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Blast hampers US peace drive
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Killing sparks fresh Mid-East violence
10 Jan 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants abandon truce
06 Sep 01 | Middle East
Three dead in West Bank attacks
01 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel's 'assassination policy'
30 Jul 01 | profiles
Fatah: Cornerstone of Arafat's power
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