Following the violation of agreements by the Palestinian Authority, IDF units entered Jericho on Tuesday, March 14, 2006, to rearrest the terrorists responsible for assassinating Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
Following the violation of agreements by the Palestinian Authority, IDF units entered Jericho on Tuesday, March 14, 2006, to rearrest the terrorists responsible for assassinating Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi, as well as other senior terrorists being held in the local PA prison. The prisoners surrendered after a 10-hour siege of the prison.
American and British inspectors, who had been monitoring the implementation of the agreements reached between Israel and the PA on the incarceration of the terrorists, had left the city after the PA violated the agreements and declared its intention to release the murderers. Israel decided to take action only after the terrorists were no longer under the supervision of the international inspectors. The Israeli operation in Jericho was meant solely to ensure that the murderers of an Israeli minister remain behind bars.
In October 2001, terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) shot to death tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi as he left his room in a Jerusalem hotel. The murderers were then harbored by Yasser Arafat in his command compound in Ramallah. During Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, IDF units surrounded the compound and demanded the assassins be brought to justice. Through the mediation of US President George W. Bush, an arrangement was reached whereby US and British wardens would take responsibility for the imprisonment of the murderers in an isolated Palestinian prison facility. The arrangement was approved by Israel’s cabinet on April 28, 2002, and the terrorists were transferred to the PA’s Jericho prison.
Israel would have preferred to continue this arrangement, but could no longer do so after the American and British wardens were forced to leave the prison. The international monitors could no longer fulfill their functions due to a dangerous deterioration of their personal security and continued Palestinian violations of the agreement. As British Foreign Secretary Straw stated following the IDF operation: "The UK and the US have repeatedly raised our concerns over the security of our monitors with the Palestinian Authority and urged them to meet their obligations under the Ramallah agreement. Unfortunately, there has been no improvement. The Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to meet its obligations.”
Public statements by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas left no doubt that the murderers’ release was imminent.
Following the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, Meshaal repeatedly and publicly demanded that the PFLP terrorists held in Jericho be set free. In addition, Abbas said in an interview to Israel’s Channel 10 on February 24 that he had no objection to the murderers’ release. These statements by the most senior Palestinian leadership indicated clearly that, following the forced departure of the international wardens, the release of Ze’evi’s assassins was about to occur.
It is important to note that Israel made every effort to avoid casualties during the operation, which was planned and carried out with the sole purpose of assuring the continued incarceration of terrorist murderers. At all stages of the operation, care was taken to reduce the risks to bystanders and the prison inmates were allowed to surrender with their safety ensured, even though by doing so, Israel increased the vulnerability of it own forces.
The operation was concluded as soon as the objective was achieved. The willingness of Ze’evi’s assassins to surrender to Israeli forces, and their being taken into Israeli custody unharmed, demonstrates how Israel’s intentions were clearly understood by all the relevant parties, including the terrorists.