14/03/2006

British office attacked in Gaza

Protestors have set fire to the British council building in Gaza, following an Israeli raid on a Palestinian prison.

It has also been reported that several foreign nationals, including a Swiss Red Cross official, two French citizens and a Korean have been taken hostage. Two Australians and an American who were also seized are believed to have been freed.

There have also been reports that an EU compound was also stormed.

The incidents followed a raid on a Palestinian-run prison by Israeli forces in an attempt to seize a prisoner wanted in connection with the killing of an Israeli Cabinet minister.

Israeli troops stormed the prison in Jericho to demand the handover of Ahmed Saadat, a militant leader who is wanted in connection with the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001.

There have been reports from Israeli television that Ahmed Saadat has now surrendered to Israeli troops, but this has not been confirmed.

According to reports, at least one Palestinian guard was killed. More than 150 prisoners are believed to have surrendered to Israeli forces.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been protesting against the raid in Gaza and the West Bank.

The raid on the prison came shortly after US and British human rights monitors withdrew from the prison, sparking criticism from Palestinians.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has blamed Britain and the US for the Israeli raid.

British and American observers had been monitoring prisoners at the jail since 2002, in order to confirm that human rights standards were being met. However, the Foreign Office said that they had been withdrawn amid concerns about their safety. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Britain and America had written to the Palestinian Authority warning that the observers would be withdrawn if the security situation did not improve.

The Foreign Office has issued a warning advising against travel to Israel and the occupied territories. Militants have warned all Britons and Americans to leave Palestinian terrorities or face the risk of abduction.

(KMcA/GB)


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