Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Wednesday that the Jericho raid was “an ugly crime which cannot be forgiven” and “a violation of all the agreements”.
The Israeli raid ended after the surrender of Ahmed Saadat, a senior leader of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and five of his colleagues, all of whom were under Palestinian detention in the prison on the West Bank.
Saadat was detained at Jericho without trial for four years for allegedly overseeing the assassination of Rehavam Zeevi, the Israeli tourist minister, in 2002 in retaliation for the Israeli killing of Abu Ali Mustafa (Mustafa al-Zibri), the PFLP leader in August 2001.
Zeevi was the founder of the Moledet party – an extremist, ultra-nationlist party that openly called for the transfer of all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and for the annexation of Jordan, even after its 1994 peace deal with Israel.
Hostages freed unharmed
The spate of kidnappings of foreigners that followed the Jericho raid ended on Wednesday afternoon with all the hostages released unharmed. But, President Abbas, acknowledging that the anger behind the protests was understandable, criticised the kidnappings.
One of the hostages, Tae Young, told Aljazeera.net: “I really condemn what the Israelis did, because they don’t think about it, they put everybody’s life in danger. But these kidnappers shouldn’t bother other people.”
The PFLP has vowed to avenge
The PFLP vowed that it would avenge the Jericho attack.
Khalida Jarrar, a PFLP legislator, expressed disbelief and anger at the Israeli raid in an interview with Aljazeera.net, saying that Palestinians needed international protection, and could not rely on agreements with Israel.
Jarrar, the former director of the Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, said: “As a Palestinian I feel very despondent, and see this as yet another materialisation of the Israeli occupation. These are political prisoners being held inside a Palestinian prison. And they were attacked with tanks and helicopters as if they were resistance fighters armed with weapons.
“This demonstrates that such agreements, with so-called American and British monitors, do not in themselves guarantee the lives or protection of prisoners. Especially with an occupation that every day raids and attacks and kills and assassinates and detains…
“The Israeli occupation will continue with its policies regardless, and as a result we cannot reach any kind of agreement with them. Only by bringing an end to the occupation can we truly protect Palestinians and Palestinian prisoners.
“Practically speaking, the goal of the agreement was to transfer these people to a Palestinian prison under American and British supervision until Arafat’s siege ended. But Arafat was kept under siege until he was killed.”
Palestinians on the street also reacted angrily to the siege, and what they perceived as the Europeans conspiring against them.
Awad Khatab, a pharmacist, said: “Why are we always the ones that have to give justifications? What happened yesterday was a crime in every aspect of the word. There is clearly a political agenda behind this.
“As for street reaction, everyone is taking matters into their own hands. If there was trust in the leadership, we would have gone with it. But there isn’t and we feel there is a conspiracy against us. We want to send the message that the US and UK are responsible for leaving the prisoners unprotected.”
“Israel is committing all the crimes, and breaking all the laws, yet no one asks them to recognise Palestinians rights and statehood, as they do our new democratically elected government”
Others, while disillusioned with the continuing lawlessness plaguing the occupied territories, said it was understandable.
Osama Nabulsi, a shop owner, said: “There is a lot of built-in anger and frustration, and you have 1.5 million Palestinians holed in from all sides. There is nothing to direct their anger at, and no one to answer to, so they attack buildings and kidnap people.
“Israel is committing all the crimes, and breaking all the laws, yet no one asks them to recognise Palestinians rights and statehood, as they do our new democratically elected government.”
Israel had also sealed off the Gaza Strip from all sides on Tuesday, placing it under effective siege, as it shut down the al-Mintar crossing – Gaza’s commercial gateway – only days after it had reopened it, and closed the Rafah crossing after EU observers fled the area.
The recurring closure of al-Mintar has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in losses to the Palestinian economy since the beginning of the year, and the spoiling of hundreds of tonnes of Palestinian fruits and vegetables, according to the World Bank and the UN.