Daily Israel Report

Israel on High Alert, PA Arabs on Strike

The Israeli public was placed on high alert Wednesday following threats by terrorist organizations they would avenge the capture of the terrorist who killed Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 3/15/2006, 3:27 PM / Last Update: 3/15/2006, 4:47 PM

The nation’s police set the public alert at Level Three, the second-highest in Israel, just below that in which a state of emergency is declared.

Security forces on high alert fanned out across the country, focusing specifically on Jerusalem and other city centers where Purim celebrations were taking place.

Officials warned the public to be especially wary of possible attempts to kidnap soldiers or civilians who could be used as hostages for exchange with the prisoners captured on Tuesday.

Although Israel had planned to lift its closure of Palestinian Authority-controlled areas which began last weekend in anticipation of Purim festivities around the country, security officials decided on Wednesday to extend it through Saturday.

The threat of revenge attacks by Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is considered a credible and serious matter.

Both terror groups vowed to retaliate after 51-year-old Ahmed Sa’adat, the PFLP leader who was the target of Tuesday’s raid, was captured by the IDF together with four co-terrorists.

“Israel will pay dearly for its actions,” promised PFLP officials.

Sa’adat was the mastermind of the assassination of former Tourist Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in October 2001. He and his team were being held in the Jericho prison which was jointly run by the PA and international monitors from the U.S. and Britain.

PA Arabs went on strike on Wednesday to protest the raid which within hours had set off demonstrations throughout the PA-controlled areas. Shops in Gaza and PA-controlled areas of Yehuda and Shomron were closed and school children arrived to find the school doors locked.

Tuesday’s attack came after the monitors were withdrawn by the governments, citing unacceptable security risks. Israel had long warned the PA that Sa’adat would be captured or killed if he were to be released.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas cleared the way for just such an event when he announced last week that he had “no problem” with releasing Sa’adat but would not take responsibility for his safety. His remarks came in response to a letters from Britain and the U.S. informing him of their decision to pull their observers. Neither country gave a specific timetable, however.

More than 200 prisoners were transferred to Israeli jails after the siege in which the prison was effectively destroyed. Another 100 were released shortly after questioning by the Shin Bet clarified that they had not been involved in any terror activities.