Abbas: Prison raid was 'unforgivable'

PA leader plays down complaints of Palestinian failure to keep agreement.

jericho prisoners 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
jericho prisoners 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel's raid of a West Bank prison is an "unforgivable crime" and an insult to the Palestinian people, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said during a tour of the demolished complex Wednesday. In Tuesday's raid, Israeli troops pounded Jericho's prison with missiles, tank shells and jackhammers to force the surrender of more than 300 prisoners and police officers. Among those taken by Israel was leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Sa'adat, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Abbas cut short his Europe trip and rushed back to the West Bank in response to the raid. During the tour of the compound, he said that the raid "is an unforgivable crime and an insult to the Palestinian people." Later Wednesday, Abbas was to tour Jericho's hospital to visit those wounded in Tuesday's fighting. Abbas suggested there was close coordination between British and American inspectors at the prison and Israeli forces. Abbas said foreign monitors, deployed at the prison since 2002 under an unusual arrangement, left Jericho at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, and that Israeli forces entered town 10 minutes later. Pressed to elaborate, he said: "I'm giving the facts. They (the monitors) left at 9:20 a.m., and the Israelis came in at 9:30 a.m. How can we explain that?" Abbas also played down the complaints by the British and US governments that the Palestinians had violated the 2002 arrangement under which Sa'adat and other suspects were being held. In a joint letter last week, the US and British governments said the Palestinian jailers were not supervising the inmates closely. "They (the monitors) used to send us weekly reports, complaining about small violations, someone got a mobile phone, someone was visited by his families, but they never spoke of serious things," Abbas said.