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Hamas Fears Loss Of Prestige After Prison Raid

From those preservers of dignity at the DNC’s Associated Press:

Israeli Raid a Blow to Abbas’ Prestige

By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press Writer

JERICHO, West Bank – Reeling from a blow to his prestige, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday toured the devastated Jericho prison where Israel spirited away six prisoners, denouncing the raid as an "unforgivable crime," while Israel pledged to put the six on trial for killing an Israeli Cabinet minister.

Abbas toured the battered prison after cutting short a trip to Europe to deal with the crisis.

The raid underlined his weakness in the midst of a power struggle with the Islamic Hamas, which swept parliamentary elections against Abbas’ Hamas and is forming a government while rejecting the Palestinian president’s demands to renounce violence and accept interim peace accords with Israel.

"What happened is an unforgivable crime and an insult to the Palestinian people," Abbas said as he toured the complex.

Abbas suggested there was close coordination between foreign inspectors and Israeli forces. He said Israeli troops arrived 10 minutes after foreign monitors left Jericho. Pressed to elaborate, he said: "I’m giving the facts. They (the monitors) left at 9:20 a.m., and the Israelis came in at 9:30 a.m. How can we explain that?"

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz denied that Israel coordinated the raid with the U.S. — or that it was an election stunt.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged as the main winner from the affair, bolstering his leadership credentials just two weeks before Israeli elections. Olmert declared Wednesday that the six Palestinians, including Ahmed Saadat, leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, will face trial. "They will be indicted according to Israeli law and they will be punished as they deserve," he said.

The PFLP claimed responsibility for the 2001 assassination of Israeli Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi in Jerusalem, saying it was retaliation for Israel’s killing of its leader several weeks earlier.

In a 10-hour siege, Israeli forces surrounded the prison and battered it with tank shells and bulldozers until the prisoners surrendered.

Saadat and other top prisoners were questioned overnight at a small Israeli army base near Jericho. In addition to the five PFLP prisoners, Israel seized Fuad Shobaki, the alleged financier of a 2002 seaborne weapons shipment to the Palestinians. Israel intercepted the ship.

In all, more than 300 Palestinians were detained in the Jericho raid. The Israeli military said all but 38 had been released by Wednesday.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who lives in Jericho, accompanied Abbas on his inspection and agreed the raid weakened the Palestinian leader.

"This was a severe blow to the Palestinian Authority and to Abu Mazen (Abbas) personally," Erekat said, blaming Israel. "We don’t accept any of the blame being thrown into our faces."

On the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, people directed their anger at Israel and at the West. Palestinians closed shops across the West Bank and Gaza to protest the raid, amid an outburst of anti-Western sentiment. In Gaza, schools opened, but most students left early to protest. Nablus residents observed a general strike.

The raid triggered unprecedented Palestinian reprisals against foreigners, blaming the U.S. and Britain for withdrawing their monitors and charging collusion with Israel.

As the raid unfolded Tuesday, gunmen vandalized Western offices and kidnapped 11 foreigners, including an American university professor. By Wednesday afternoon, the last of the hostages was released in Gaza.

Saadat and four PFLP activists Israel says were involved in the killing of Zeevi in October 2001 were originally arrested by Palestinian police. A makeshift court hastily convened in then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s West Bank compound sentenced the four to prison terms ranging from one to 18 years, as Israeli forces encircled Arafat’s compound.

Under an internationally brokered deal to end that siege, Saadat and the others were transferred to Jericho, where U.S. and British inspectors were to supervise their imprisonment. British and American officials said they had complained repeatedly about security conditions at the prison and threatened in a letter last week — a copy of which was sent to Israel — to remove the monitors if things did not improve immediately.

Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the withdrawal of British monitors, saying it came after months of warnings about problems at the jail.

"The idea that this was … uncalled-for or not thought through is simply wrong," he said in his weekly House of Commons question session on Wednesday.

Abbas acknowledged that the foreign monitors had informed him of their intention to leave, but said they did not give a departure date.

Somebody might tell Hamas that honoring a deal is one way to get prestige.

Hamas broke the word of the Palestinian Government to Israel about how the prisons (murderers) would be jailed. And they had to face the consequences.

Boo hoo.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, March 15th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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