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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 22:34 GMT
Israel holds militant after siege
Palestinian prisoners are marched by Israeli forces from the jail in Jericho
The remaining prisoners were marched from the jail after dark
Israeli forces have captured a senior Palestinian militant leader after storming the jail where he was held in the West Bank town of Jericho.

The raid began early on Tuesday, shortly after UK and US monitors left the Palestinian-run prison complaining about lax security arrangements.

Dozens of Palestinians, including Ahmed Saadat, surrendered to the Israeli troops after dark.

Angry protests and a wave of revenge abductions followed the raid.

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

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has since cut short his visit to Europe, condemned Britain and the US for withdrawing the monitors.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain had repeatedly raised concerns about the security conditions in the jail and gave a final warning about the monitors' withdrawal on 8 March.

An Israeli foreign ministry official said the army raid was necessary after Mr Abbas said Mr Saadat and other militants were about to be freed.

Deadly raid

"The operation was completed with success," the head of Israeli central command, General Yair Naveh, said.

An Israeli official said Mr Saadat and four other militants from his Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine would be put on trial for the killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001.

Earlier, two Palestinians were killed when scores of Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopters burst into the Jericho prison compound.
Jericho locator

Unrest broke out across the Palestinian territories after the raid began, much of it directed against Western civilians.

Thousands of Palestinians led by dozens of gunmen firing in the air marched through the streets of Gaza City into the evening.

Palestinian police ferried convoys of foreigners out of the Gaza Strip. A crossing with Egypt was closed for the day after EU monitors were evacuated over fears for their safety.

In Tuesday's incidents:

  • At least seven foreign aid workers and teachers were kidnapped, some of whom were later released

  • A Palestinian gunman was shot dead by security forces during the abduction of two French citizens and a Korean from outside a hotel in the centre of Gaza City

  • A Swiss national who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross was seized by gunmen at his office in Gaza

  • Gunmen set fire to a British Council cultural centre in Gaza City, among other violent attacks on UK-owned property

'Grave violation'

BBC correspondent David Chazan says the raid has sparked a major diplomatic crisis between Britain, the US and the Palestinians.

Mr Abbas, who is president of the Palestinian Authority, called the withdrawal of the prison monitors a grave violation of agreements.

British Council in Gaza City is set alight
The British Council was one of several targets for angry protests

Speaking in the UK parliament, Mr Straw confirmed that Britain had informed both the Palestinian and the Israeli authorities about the imminent withdrawal.

Mr Saadat has been in Palestinian custody since early in 2002 - and was moved to Jericho under international supervision in a deal to lift Israel's siege of Yasser Arafat's Muqataa compound in Ramallah in May of that year.

The following month the Palestinian High Court ordered his release, saying there was no evidence to link him to the Zeevi assassination.

He was elected to parliament earlier this year, and both Mr Abbas and the militant election victors, Hamas, had spoken of releasing him soon.


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