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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Ramallah deal hinges on prisoners
Blockade around Yasser Arafat's Ramallah HQ
Mr Arafat is under virtual house arrest
Under the US-brokered deal to lift the siege on Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, the Palestinian leader must guarantee the surrender of six men.

Four of them are wanted by Israel in connection with the assassination of the Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi last October.

They are:

  • Hamdi Qoraan
  • Bassel al-Asmar
  • Mejdu Rehmi
  • Ahed abu Gholma

All four are believed to belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) militant group, which admitted killing Mr Zeevi in revenge for the assassination of its leader Mustafa Abu Ali in August 2001.

Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat has not been allowed to leave Ramallah since December
The fifth man is Fuad Shobaki, a senior aide to Mr Arafat, who is accused by Israel of involvement in arms shipments from Iran.

The sixth man is Ahmed Saadat - the current PFLP leader.

The agreement stipulates that all six will be placed under international custody.

The group will be detained at a prison in Jericho built by the British in the 1930s, a British consulate spokesman told the Reuters News Agency.

They will be supervised by US and British wardens at the jail, which currently forms part of a complex housing local Palestinian security forces.

Israeli Government spokesman Danny Seaman told BBC News Online: "Things are still being determined, but we have no objection at this point."

We have not stepped back from our demand that they face trial in Israel whether this takes place in one year or 50 years

Israeli Government spokesman

The men are expected to be transferred in the next 48 hours.

Once this is complete, Israeli forces will withdraw from their positions around Mr Arafat's Ramallah compound, which they have occupied for nearly a month.

Palestinian spokesman Yasser Abed Rabbo told the Associated Press: "We have guarantees from the Americans and the British that President Arafat will be free to move inside the Palestinian territories and even outside the Palestinian territories, with guarantees of return."

But other Israeli officials have said Mr Arafat will still be restricted to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian court hearing
Four of the men were sentenced at a court hearing on Thursday

The four men accused of Mr Zeevi's murder were tried and sentenced to between one and 18 years by an ad hoc Palestinian court last week.

Israel dismissed the trial, which was presided over by Palestinian security officers, and repeated its demand that the men be extradited.

Israeli Government spokesman Danny Seaman told BBC News Online: "We have not stepped back from our demand that they face trial in Israel whether this takes place in one year or 50 years."

The Palestinian leader was first barred from leaving his Ramallah headquarters in December.

The recent Israeli military operation in the West Bank hemmed him in to a few rooms in his compound.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"Arafat seems to be staying in place, at least until the US and British guards get to the compound"
See also:

16 Jan 02 | Middle East
Ahmad Saadat: radical PFLP leader
27 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin mission delayed until Sunday
26 Apr 02 | Middle East
Fresh fighting in Bethlehem
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Zeevi dispute unresolved
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