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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 04:40 GMT 05:40 UK
Palestinian cabinet blocks release
Palestinians rally in support of Ahmed Saadat (on poster)
Saadat's supporters want more militants freed
The Palestinian cabinet has said militant leader Ahmed Saadat will remain in jail despite a ruling by the Palestinian high court to release him.

Arafat must comply with this decision, but on the other hand Arafat knows that if Saadat is out the Israelis may abduct or kill him

Saeb Erekat
Chief Palestinian negotiator
In a statement, the cabinet said while it respected the court's decision, it could not be implemented at the present time "because of Israeli threats".

The decision came after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged to block the release of Mr Saadat, who is currently being held in international custody in the West Bank.

The row erupted on the same day the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Tenet, arrived in Israel to press for reform in the Palestinian Authority, and as Israeli troops made another incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon: "All necessary measures"
Mr Tenet is hoping his mission to the region will bring about a ceasefire through the reorganisation of the fragmented Palestinian security forces.

He wants to see a more unified structure with a clear chain of command in control.

Correspondents say he must convince both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities that the security reforms represent their best interests.


The White House has announced that the Israeli prime minister will meet President George W Bush in Washington.

Next Monday's meeting will take place after Mr Bush's weekend talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Supporters carry poster of Ahmed Saadat in Gaza
The PLFP says it has a legitimate right to fight Israel
But as Mr Tenet prepared to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for talks on Tuesday, Israeli troops again entered Jenin.

Palestinian security officials and witnesses said troops fired in the air as tanks and armoured vehicles drove in, but there were no reports of clashes with Palestinian gunmen.

On Monday, Israeli armed forces raided a refugee camp near Nablus, rounding up an estimated 500 men between the ages of 15 and 50.

Many of the men were then handcuffed, blindfolded and taken away for questioning.

Israeli tanks also rolled into the Palestinian-controlled town of Qalqilya, imposing a curfew and conducting house-to-house searches.


After the court in Gaza said there was no evidence of a link between Mr Saadat and the killing of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, the Israeli Government warned that it reserved the right to "bring justice" to the PFLP leader if he was freed.

If he is not brought to justice we will bring justice to him

Israeli Government spokesman

The PFLP claimed the killing of Mr Zeevi at the time, saying it was revenge for Israel's assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa, whom Mr Saadat succeeded as leader.

Mr Sharon said Israel would do everything to prevent the release of "a person who was involved in murder, who ordered murder and whose organisation carries out murders to this day".

He did not elaborate but his Defence Minister, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, explained that a release would free Israel from its deal in April to withdraw from Ramallah - where its forces were besieging Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters - in return for the PFLP leader's detention.

Israel agreed in April to have Mr Saadat placed in the custody of US and British prison guards in the West Bank.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"For Arafat a respite from Sharon's threats"
UN Middle East co-ordinator Terje-Roed Larsen
"We are insisting on reform of the Palestinian insitutions and more transparency"
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
"We fully respect the high court decision"

Key stories




See also:

30 Apr 02 | Middle East
25 Apr 02 | Middle East
02 Jun 02 | Middle East
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