14 March 2006

Israelis provoke mayhem with prison siege

RTÉ

14 March 2006 16:17

Israeli forces say most of the prisoners at a Palestinian prison in the West Bank have surrendered to their troops.

The Israelis seized the jail in Jericho using tanks and bulldozers to destroy one of the walls and have killed at least one prison guard.

An Israeli army spokesman has said it has removed 182 people from the prison and is questioning them. 26 are wounded.

The troops are trying to capture the Palestinian militant, Ahmed Saadat, who has been blamed for the killing of an Israeli minister.

But speaking from inside the prison, Ahmed Saadat, who is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has said he will not give himself up.

Hundreds of Palestinians have reacted to the prison siege by taking foreigners hostage and attacking a British cultural centre, which has been set on fire.

The demonstrators fired into the air inside the centre and also torched a vehicle. Militants and Palestinian police earlier exchanged gunfire outside the British Council office.

Protestors also stormed the EU compound in Gaza, smashing windows and causing other damage.

A US-based educational organisation, operated by America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, was later targeted by militants who entered the building and caused minor damage.

In the wave of violence that followed the storming of the prison, a number of international aid workers have been kidnapped.

The director of the International Red Cross in Gaza was kidnapped by gunmen and two French members of the Medecins du Monde charity in Gaza were also seized.

The kidnappings came as Palestinian militants from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Gaza City warned US and UK nationals to leave the Palestinian territories immediately.

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