Insight on the Jericho Jail Raid
Britain's tiny contingent of monitors left Jericho's jail soon after 9am yesterday, telling Palestinian staff that they were taking their car to be fixed. In reality they had no intention of returning to watch over its 200 inmates, among them Ahmed Saadat, the man accused of masterminding the assassination of Rehavam Zeevi, Israel's tourism minister, in 2001.
Instead, the three monitors headed out of the jail and began the uphill drive from the lowest city on earth to Jerusalem. The Foreign Office later said they were leaving because of fears for their "security" and few doubt that inside Jericho jail the inmates ran the show.
Saadat's cell was more of an office. He had telephones and television sets. The jail's Palestinian guards stayed away from his quarters, which included a kitchen and an area to receive guests.
The British monitors stayed even further back. But to Israel, which has long wanted Saadat in its custody, they guaranteed that men it considered terrorist murderers were at least serving their time behind bars, even if those bars were covered by curtains.
When the British left, that guarantee evaporated, particularly as the newly elected Palestinian militant group Hamas had hinted it might free Saadat. So as the monitors moved out, the Israeli army - long ready for its capture or kill mission - moved in.
The military operation to raid the jail truly began at the moment the British passed an Israeli army checkpoint, according to senior Israeli commanders. "One, two, three, I counted the British monitors out," said an Israeli colonel, second-in-command of yesterday's operation. "We have standing orders to act in this case, so we went in."
Within minutes, a passage of time that provoked furious Palestinian accusations of collusion between Britain and the Israelis, the mission was under way.
Gen Guy Tzur insisted that there had been no co-operation with Britain. The operation had been prompted by Palestinian hints that Saadat and five others wanted for Mr Reevi's killing might be released.
And the Jerusalem Post publishes the text of the letter addressed to Mahmoud Abbas by the American and British consuls regarding the PA's failure to comply with the agreement on the imprisonment of the terrorists in Jericho.