Gaza: Gunmen storm German TV offices

Eight foreigners abducted in Gaza; citizens from four nations seeking refuge.

March 14, 2006 13:25
3 minute read.
Gaza: Gunmen storm German TV offices

brit council on fire 298. (photo credit: AP)


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Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip reacted with fury to the IDF operation against the assassins of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi as several armed groups threatened to attack Israeli, American and British targets. Leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were unanimous in condemning the US and Britain, accusing them of "collusion" with Israel to liquidate the PFLP prisoners. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is abroad, accused the US and Britain of withdrawing their monitors from the Jericho prison without telling him. He said he would hold them responsible if anything happens to the prisoners. "The authority denounces this aggression and calls on the Israeli government to withdraw immediately from Jericho and to stop all the military acts, and it calls on the American and British observers to return immediately," he said in a statement. In Gaza City, citizens of at least four countries took refuge Tuesday at an office of the Palestinian security services, following the abduction earlier in the day of at least eight foreigners by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including humanitarian aid workers. Among those seeking the protection of the Preventive Security Services were citizens of France, Britain, Germany and South Korea, security officials said. The violence in Gaza came in response to the IDF raid on the Jericho prison, which occurred after British and American monitors withdrew from the premises on Tuesday morning. The foreign kidnap victims in Gaza reportedly include a Swiss Red Cross worker, a teacher at the American school at Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, and two South Korean journalists. The French foreign ministry confirmed that two French humanitarian workers were also abducted. Two Australian teachers employed at an American school in Gaza City were reportedly released after being kidnapped in Gaza City earlier Tuesday afternoon. The teachers' names were not immediately released, security officials said, and the report of their release has not yet been confirmed. According to Sky News, in response to the spate of attacks on foreigners, the Gaza City police chief ordered Palestinian security forces to open fire on anyone attempting to abduct foreigners. Palestinian gunmen have also targeted the offices of foreign representatives and businesses. In the latest attack, gunmen broke into the offices of the German television network ARD in Gaza City on Tuesday afternoon, a Palestinian journalist working for the network said. The German TV office is located in the same building in Gaza housing the BBC, but there was no immediate word on whether the BBC had also been targeted. Earlier, some 300 demonstrators broke into the European Commission building in Gaza City and raised the PFLP flag on the roof. They also torched the British council offices and burned council employees' cars. The PFLP issued a statement warning that it would target Britons and Americans if PFLP Secretary-General Ahmed Sa'dat or the other prisoners were hurt. "Any attempt to harm our comrades will make all British and Americans a target by our cells," they said. Gunmen also briefly stormed the offices of AMIDEAST, a private organization that provides English classes and testing services. "We don't want to see any Americans here," one of the gunmen shouted when Palestinian police approached the AMIDEAST office. Some of the protesters chanted: "Death to the Americans! Death to the British!" PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas lashed out at the Americans and the British, saying they withdrew their monitoring forces from the prison without telling him, violating a 2002 agreement. He said he would hold them responsible if anything happens to the prisoners. Abbas had said earlier that he would agree to release the prisoners under certain conditions. The foreign monitors had been supervising the imprisonment of the terror leader and those involved in the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister in 2001. The British Foreign Office, however, said that Britain repeatedly warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that it would withdraw its monitors. The PA was warned that British observers would leave if security did not improve, a Foreign Office spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy. "The security of that prison and the security of the monitors was the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, we made clear to them what we expected them to do," the spokesman said "The authority denounces this aggression and calls on the Israeli government to withdraw immediately from Jericho and to stop all the military acts, and it calls on the American and British observers to return immediately," he said in a statement. Incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, called the raid "a dangerous escalation against the Palestinian leaders and freedom fighters." "We warn against the continuation of this destructive attitude, especially harming the lives of freedom fighters. The Palestinian blood is becoming material for the competition of the Israeli election," he said.

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