Great Britain says it warned Palestinian leader monitors would leave Jericho prison

Britain repeatedly warned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that it would withdraw its monitors from a Jericho prison raided Tuesday by Israeli forces, the Foreign Office said.

"It's quite clear that the security of that prison and the security of the monitors was the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, we made clear to them what we expected them to do, we gave them a warning" that British observers would leave if security did not improve, a Foreign Office spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.

Abbas blamed the U.S. and British governments for the raid because their observers, who had monitored the jail for the past four years, withdrew early Tuesday morning, citing security concerns.

Israeli forces arrived soon after, demanding the surrender of prisoners, and the Israeli army said the government had ordered the raid because the monitors were withdrawn.

The Foreign Office spokesman said the British and American consuls general in the Palestinian territories had written to Abbas on March 8, saying the monitors would be withdrawn if he did not take immediate action to improve security.

The British consul also contacted Abbas's office four times between Friday and Tuesday morning, the spokesman said.

"They had ample warning, they knew exactly what we were thinking and what we were planning to do," he said.

The spokesman said Britain had no advance knowledge of the Israeli raid, which Israel said targeted a number of prisoners for arrest, including the mastermind of the 2001 killing of an Israeli Cabinet minister.

The operation sparked a shootout with Palestinian police that killed one Palestinian officer and a prisoner, Palestinian security officials said. Israeli forces fired tank shells at the prison and bulldozers tore down some of the building's walls.

The Foreign Office said staff at the British Council office in Gaza City were not present when hundreds of demonstrators set fire to the building. No Britons were caught up in that violence, he said.

The office warned Britons against all travel to Gaza and the West Bank , reports the AP.


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