Palestinian gunmen outraged by a full-scale Israeli raid on a jail in the West Bank town of Jericho continue to hold three western hostages. The militants have justified their action, saying US and British monitors paved the way for the assault by withdrawing from the prison due to security concerns.
The journalists, two French and one Korean, made a direct appeal to their governments for help. The militants also made their message clear: “If they don’t release brother Ahmed in the next twelve hours or put pressure on the Israelis to do so, we will kill all the foreign hostages here.” said one heavily-armed, masked man.
Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat called the Israeli raid a “massive provocation” and predicted that it would cause major unrest in the region. Israeli troops seized 300 prisoners following the full-scale attack and day-long siege.
Ahmed Saadat, wanted for the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001, was one of six high-profile Palestinians who were seized. Later, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza to protest. The demonstration was organised by Hamas.
The protestors denounced Israel and called for Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to be released. But an Israeli spokesman defended his government’s action.