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Jericho Incident Harms Palestinian-Israeli Ties
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The already stalled Israeli-Palestinian ties are going to dark tunnel after Israeli forces raided on the Palestinian prison in the West Bank town of Jerichoon Tuesday and arrested the chief leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmed Saadat.

Israel said the raid came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said earlier that he would release Saadat who was accused by Israel of ordering the murder of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001, has been held in a Palestinian prison in Jericho.

According to an agreement reached between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel four years ago, the people held in the Jericho jail are not seen as prisoners but reserved people under supervision of unarmed American and British monitors.
The Jericho incident totally shattered the Palestinians' confidence in US and Britain, the two key brokers in the Palestinian negotiations with Israel who folded their arms in Tuesday's Jericho incident.

For a long time, Palestinians' trust put on the US and Britain plays a very important role in the Middle East's peace process. But now most of the Palestinians feel strongly that there was a coordination among the US, Britain and Israel over the Jericho incident.

Although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has tried to avoid accusation against the US and Britain, it is very hard for him to slide over the role played by the US and Britain in Jericho incident.

This because the prison, which under the supervision of monitors from the two countries, were raided by Israeli forces only 10 minutes after the monitors withdrew from the prison at 9:20 AM (07:20 GMT).

"The observers left at 9:20 and Israeli operation began at 9:30,so what did that mean?" Abbas questioned when visiting the destroyed prison in Jericho on Wednesday.

"We are informed that the US and British observers will leave the prison, but they didn't said when," Abbas said, adding that "the aim of this operation just to insulting the Palestinians for Israeli election consideration."

Political analysts said the incident took place as Israel has vowed to cut all ties with the Palestinian government once the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which won the January legislative elections, assumes power.

The Tuesday arrest operation was seen as an Israeli effort to thwart the forming of the next Hamas-led coalition Palestinian government, as the PFLP was the most close ally to Hamas in the negotiations to form the new cabinet, said the analysts.

Whatever the aim of the Israeli military operation was, it shows that Israel is moving on the same road, which also adopted by the ailing Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon who insisted there is no Palestinian partner to talk with, they added.

Terming the raid on Jericho prison as "unforgivable crime", the PNA has asked Israel to return back Saadat and his fellows.

However, the PNA's demand was doomed to be refused, which would mean a negative effect on the political process in the region. The negative effect will continue for a long time and the political darkness brought by Tuesday's operation will spread more and more, said Palestinian observers.

Moreover, it would be more difficult for Hamas to form a new government or move the government forward after the Jericho incident, they added.

"Either detaining or killing Ahmed Saadat would lead to a third Intifada against Israel in the Palestinian territories," warned Ashraf el-Ajrami, a Palestinian analyst.

(Xinhua News Agency March 16, 2006)

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