03-16-2006, 06:40 PM
The Palestinians accused Israel of planning to destroy the Palestinian Authority after its raid on the Jericho prison that boosted the chances of acting Prime Minister’s Ehud Olmert’s ahead of the general elections, AFP reported. Reply
"What happened in Jericho and the crimes against the Palestinian people... is a pre-planned scheme to destroy the Palestinian Authority. This is the basis of Israeli policy," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters.
Erekat also said that the raid dealt a major blow to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been increasingly isolated following Hamas’ election victory.
On the other hand, Olmert’s centrist Kadima party, have savored boosted approval ratings in the wake of the Israeli operations, 12 days ahead of the March 28 elections.
"The international community continues to deal with Israel even though it is a state above the law," Erakat said. "All acts of Israel aim to destroy the Palestinian Authority," he added.
The Israeli operation, which killed two Palestinian prison guards and wounded 26 others, was aimed at capturing a number of Palestinian detainees, including Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), for their alleged role in the assassination of an Israeli minister in 2001.
President Abbas blames the raid on Britain and the U.S., who removed their guards from the jail just before the Israeli operation, which he described as an "unforgivable crime" and "an insult to the Palestinian people".
Israeli officials said that they are determined to put the seized Palestinian detainees on trial. “We have every intention to bring him (Saadat) to trial,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Saadar denies any responsibility for the assassination of the Israeli minister. “I reject the accusations," Ahmed Saadat was quoted as saying by his attorney, who met the PFLP chief at an Israeli detention center in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization discussed Saadat's kidnapping, and held the UK and the U.S. responsible and demanded them to work with Israel to return the detainees.
"We decided to call the United States and United Kingdom to put pressure on Israel to return the people who were kidnapped to the Palestinian Authority," PLO committee member Saleh Rafat told AFP.
In a separate development, Israel extended the closure of the main crossing points into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Bloomberg reported.
Earlier this week, the Israeli army ordered the closure of the crossing points for a Jewish holiday. It promised to lift the closure on Wednesday, but decided to extend it until Saturday, saying that Palestinian resistance groups could carry out revenge attacks against Israeli targets in response to the Jericho raid.
West Bank firefight
Israeli occupation forces surrounded two houses in the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday, setting off a fierce gun battle with Palestinian fighters, the Israeli army said, according to The Associated Press news agency.
Witnesses said the houses contained members of Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades.
Palestinian fighters took up to the streets during the Israeli raid, exchanging fire with the Israeli army.
Palestinian civilians also threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who took over a number of houses in the area.
The Israeli army said that one soldiers was killed in the gun battle. It added that five Palestinian fighters were arrested.
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