Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Early in the morning, the British and U.S. monitors guarding 6 political prisoners in the PA’s Jericho jail pull out of the city, citing security concerns. Within 20 minutes, the IDF encircles and imposes a curfew on Jericho, sends 80 tanks and armored vehicles, backed by helicopters, into the city, launching Operation Bring the Goods Home to take custody of the 6 prisoners (including PFLP head Ahmad Saadat). IDF troops surround the jail, order the 280 prisoners and PA guards to surrender, begin demolishing the jail and attached PA barracks, clashing with some prisoners, guards, and local Palestinians. (Although the U.S., Britain deny coordinating with Israel, Israeli DM Shaul Mofaz says Israel knew of the monitors pending departure and had been plotting the attack for 1 wk.). After 12 hrs., the remaining prisoners, including the 6 targeted men, surrender. At least 1 PA prison guard and 1 Palestinian prisoner are killed, more than 50 guards and prisoners are wounded, 10s of local Palestinians are injured. In response to the raid, Palestinian gunmen across Gaza and the West Bank (reportedly PFLP and AMB mbrs.) raid hotels, news outlets, and foreign offices, kidnapping at least 9 foreigners, vandalizing foreign-owned offices. Most foreigners kidnapped are quickly released. PA police fire on PFLP mbrs. breaking into the French Cultural Center in Gaza, killing 1 PFLP mbr., wounding 9. Some 15,000 Palestinians demonstrate in Gaza City. As a result of the violence, the UN suspends operations in Gaza; the EU withdraws observers from the Rafah crossing, forcing it to close. Meanwhile, the IDF also closes the Qarni crossing; bars a pregnant Palestinian woman fr. crossing a checkpoint to reach a Ramallah hospital, forcing her to give birth at the checkpoint; conducts arrest raids, house searches in and around Bethlehem, nr. Hebron and Qalqilya, and in ‘Aida r.c., Jenin town and r.c., Qabatya; begins work on a new segment of the separation wall nr. Dahiyat al-Barid n. of Jerusalem. Israel releases jailed Change and Reform PC mbr. Omar ‘Abd al-Raziq on bail; he was detained 3 mos. ago on charges of belonging to and handling money for Hamas. Jewish settlers fr. Kiryat Arba hold Purim parades through Palestinian areas of Hebron under IDF escort, vandalizing Palestinian property and beating 2 Palestinian children (ages 11, 13). (AP, BBC, HA, IMEMC, JAZ, MM, PCHR, REU, XIN 3/14; HA, IMEMC, JAZ, MM, NYT, WP, WT, YA 3/15; DS, MM, NYT, PCHR 3/16; MA, Middle East News Agency, MM, VOP 3/18 in WNC 3/19; AP 3/20; MM 3/21, 3/23; HA 4/26; NYT 4/27)