Ahmed Sa'adat, the mastermind behind the assassination of former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001, was captured alive by IDF troops Tuesday evening following a day-long seige of the Jericho prison where he was being held.
Five other men wanted by the IDF for involvement in the killing were also arrested.
According to Israeli security sources, the six decided to turn themselves in, likely due to the pressure of constant IDF bombardment of the prison throughout the day.
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh said following the success of the operation that he was happy with the outcome and the with the performance of the IDF.
"This sends a clear a message that Jewish blood is not forfeit," said Naveh.
The PFLP issued a swift response to the arrest of their leader, saying that Israel "would pay dearly for her action. Our battalions will continue to destroy your enterprise."
Israel decided to raid the prison compound after US and British monitors left the prison citing security concerns. The monitors, according to a deal between Israel and former PA President Yasser Arafat, were charged with ensuring the incarceration of Ze'evi's killers.
Naveh reiterated Israel's stance that there was no prior cooperation between the US and Britain with Israel, and that the IDF was not informed by the monitors as to their decision to leave the prison.
Sa'adat had told Al-Jazeera television in a telephone interview from the jail, "We are not going to give up, we are going to face our destiny with courage."
During operation "Pay a Visit," which began Tuesday morning, Nahal Brigade troops along with the police's special anti-terror unit, broke into the facility amidst reports of explosions and heavy gunfire. PA sources said two Palestinians were killed - one policeman and one inmate - while three others were wounded in the exchange of fire.
Aside from the six, some 200 prisoners had already surrendered to IDF troops and were taken to the nearby Jewish settlement of Vered Jericho for interrogation. According to the IDF, whoever was of interest to security forces would be kept in Israeli custody. Seventy-six others, who were not of interest to security forces, were returned to the custody of the PA.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Jerusalem Post's account: