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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 14:00 GMT
Palestinians protest at jail raid
Palestinian security officer holds a flag aloft in the remains of the jail in Jericho
All Palestinian factions called for the general strike
Palestinians are going on strike in Gaza and the West Bank to protest against Israel's seizure of a leading militant from a jail on Tuesday.

All Palestinian factions called on businesses and schools to close after Ahmed Saadat gave himself up after troops stormed his jail in Jericho.

The West Bank raid began when UK and US monitors left the Palestinian-run prison complaining about lax security.

Gunmen have released all 11 of the foreigners kidnapped in retaliation.

Two French citizens and a South Korean journalist had been held hostage by Palestinian gunmen overnight, but they have now been handed over to Palestinian police.

The authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip remain on high alert fearing further anti-Western violence, a day after the British Council cultural centre in Gaza City was set ablaze.


The general strike throughout the Palestinian territories was called late on Tuesday after emergency talks to discuss the Israeli raid in which Mr Saadat, the leader of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was captured.

Jericho locator
What happened in Jericho was an unforgivable crime and an insult to the Palestinian people
Mahmoud Abbas

"The Palestinian factions called for a general strike across the Palestinian territories to condemn the seizure of Saadat, the Israeli aggression and the killing of Palestinians," one delegate said.

The PFLP warned that the Israeli raid would "not pass without retaliation".

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has cut short a trip to Europe to deal with the crisis. He visited the damaged prison where he angrily denounced the raid as "an unforgivable crime and an insult to the Palestinian people".

"Israel had no right to carry out this kidnapping," he said.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger said Mr Abbas's trip to Strasbourg - which was to include a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday - had been an important one.

The EU, as the single largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, gives about $340m each year.

But since the election victory of Hamas, which the EU lists as a terrorist organisation, it has been reconsidering its position.


Meanwhile, Israel has said it is interrogating dozens of the inmates seized during the assault on Tuesday.

Ahmed Saadat waves to crowds during press conference at Jericho jail

It says some of those held, including Mr Saadat and four other militants from his PLFP, will stand trial in Israel for the killing of the extreme right-wing Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001.

The military said Tuesday's prison raid was necessary because several militants had been about to be freed by the Palestinian authorities.

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.

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

Palestinian demonstrations denouncing the Israeli operation

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