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Arafat Obtains Release of Jenin Governor - 2003-07-19

Palestinian militants have released the governor of the West Bank town of Jenin, whom they had kidnapped earlier Sunday. The release followed the intervention of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Governor Haider Irsheid was pulled from his car, beaten and then driven to the Jenin refugee camp, where he was briefly held by members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The local Al Aqsa leader, Zakariye Zubeydi, said the governor was released after Mr. Arafat directly ordered it. He said the group does not question Mr. Arafat's instructions.

Mr. Zubeydi said earlier the governor was seized because he was an Israeli collaborator responsible for what he termed "crimes" against the Palestinian people.

There is a sense of growing anger among militants because of recent actions by Palestinian security forces in Jenin, in particular an attempt to arrest an Al Aqsa gunman in the Jenin refugee camp.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a militant offshoot of Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement.

Al Aqsa has been blamed for several small scale attacks on Israelis since the main Palestinian militant groups declared a temporary cease-fire on June 29. Although Fatah agreed to the cease-fire, several Al Aqsa factions refused to honor it.

Meanwhile, Israeli media are reporting that Israel is considering releasing some Palestinian prisoners who are members of the militant groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

As many as 60 members of those groups, those who have not been implicated in terrorist attacks against Israel, could be among several hundred Palestinians expected to be freed.

Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas plan to meet Sunday to discuss peace efforts, including the expected prisoner release.

Both men are preparing for talks with President Bush in Washington later this month.