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Friday, September 01, 2006

Israeli police storm UK embassy, capture Palestinian

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli police commandos stormed the British Embassy in Tel Aviv late Thursday and captured a Palestinian man who had been holed up inside for eight hours, claiming to have a gun and demanding political asylum. There were no injuries.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the forces seized the man after he laid down his weapon for a split second to eat food they had given him. After the arrest, authorities discovered the weapon was plastic.

"We took into consideration that he did have a pistol and possibly other materials and therefore every precaution was taken," he said. The man also was carrying large amounts of money, Rosenfeld said.

Embassy spokeswoman Karen Kaufman said the police operation was coordinated with British officials, in line with diplomatic protocols.

"As far as the embassy is concerned, the event is over," she said. "We are very grateful to Israeli police for their swift response and the excellent cooperation throughout the incident."

Nadim Injaz, 28, a resident of the West Bank city of Ramallah and an informer for Israeli police, burst into the embassy on Thursday afternoon by jumping a fence. In a dramatic interview on live television later in the evening, he said he would rather die than return to the West Bank.

He remained holed up inside the compound several hours later as authorities tried to negotiate a peaceful end to the standoff.

Injaz said he was seeking asylum because Palestinian militants would kill him if he returned home. He threatened to commit suicide.

"They will either take me out of here to Europe, or as a body," Injaz, speaking Hebrew, told Channel 2 TV. He said he was forced to take the extreme step after Israeli authorities rebuffed repeated demands for help and protection. "If no one comes to help me soon to save my life, I will finish myself here."

Injaz said militants in the West Bank told him that he would be allowed to return to Ramallah only if he attacked Israelis. He said he chose a different path instead.

"I don't want to kill children," he said in tears in a separate interview with Channel 10 TV. "I want to be taken from here. I don't want to be here."

Police, believing the gun was real, made contact with him shortly after he burst into the embassy grounds and negotiations lasted for more than eight hours, well into the night, as anti-terrorist units surrounded the site.

The embassy, on the Tel Aviv seafront, is ringed by a fence, and visitors are normally screened by security guards at the gate. Police officials said Injaz managed to jump the fence of the compound but was stopped by security before he could enter the building.

Kaufman said an investigation would be launched into how the man breached security. In the Channel 2 interview, Injaz said the infiltration was not difficult. "Someone who is going to die doesn't care," he said.

Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, confirmed that Injaz was indeed an informer. Police officials said Injaz had recently encountered financial and legal troubles.

Injaz said he has petitioned Israeli courts and contacted local media and human rights groups to win residency rights in Israel.

Rosenfeld said Injaz would be questioned and put on trial. It was not clear whether they would send him back to the West Bank.

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