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Jenin Governor Kidnapped by Palestinian Militants - 2003-07-19


Palestinian militants have kidnapped the acting governor of the West Bank district of Jenin. The militants are accusing the governor of collaborating with Israel.

Witnesses in Jenin say members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades kidnapped Haider Irsheid in broad daylight as he drove into the city.

They say the kidnappers beat him, and then disappeared into the Palestinian refugee camp in the city.

Israeli media quoted an Al Aqsa official as saying his group seized the governor because he was an Israeli collaborator responsible for what were termed "crimes" against the Palestinian people. The man, Zakariye Zubeidi, said the governor should be tried by the Palestinian Authority.

There was 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 Palestinian leader Yasser 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 29th. Although Fatah agreed to the cease-fire, several Al Aqsa factions refused to honor the truce.

Saturday's kidnapping comes amid reports that Israel is considering releasing some Palestinian prisoners who are members of the militant groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Israeli newspapers reported Friday that as many as 60 members of those militant groups who have not been implicated in terrorist attacks against Israel could be freed.

Several hundred Palestinian prisoners are expected to be released.

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.