Palestinians may sue Britain over storming of Jericho jail

British lawyers representing Ahmed Sadaat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who is accused by Israel of ordering the assassination of its Tourist Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001, will discuss options for action under the Human Rights Act next week. They are considering a case against the Foreign Office, arguing that it failed in its duty to ensure Mr Saadat was safely released from "arbitrary" detention. Unlike four of the other five prisoners who surrendered with him to the Israelis after a nine-hour armed siege on Tuesday, Mr Saadat was never subject to legal proceedings over the killing.

Britain and the US have been strongly criticised by the Palestinians for paving the way for the Israeli raid on Tuesday. But British sources say there were explicit threats to the security of the monitors and that they had complained about the prison's lax regime.

The initial focus of the legal consultations in the UK - and with the Palestinian lawyers in touch with Mr Saadat in the Israeli interrogation centre in Jeru-salem - is Article Five of the European Convention of Human Rights. It deals with the proper treatment of prisoners in detention.

Part of a case, if it went ahead, would be that the British government knew of the dangers facing Mr Saadat if the monitors left the jail. Mr Saadat and the other five prisoners eventually obeyed persistent orders to surrender alive, though two other Palestinians, a guard and a prisoner, were killed in a gun battle.

Daniel Machover, of the London solicitors Hickman and Rose, which represents Mr Saadat in the UK, said last night his client would have to agree to initiate any action. He added that Mr Saadat had said the monitors had indicated several times in the past that they would withdraw and had made clear that if they did there was a real threat the prisoners would be killed."

Mr Saadat's legal team had been about to notify the Foreign Office that they were contemplating legal action against them over their shared responsibility for the detention of their client in defiance of a Palestinian High Court decision ordering his release.

Mr Saadat was imprisoned under a deal struck with the Palestinians, Israelis and the US in 2000

Meanwhile,Ishmael Han-iyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister designate of the new Palestinian Authority suggested he could in the long term envisage an agreement with Israel in return for a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mr Hanieyh, who denied he had ever ordered a suicide bombing, said when asked if he could ever envisage making peace with Israel said: "I hope so."

But with Hamas seeking to present a new Cabinet to the Palestinian parliament on Monday, the exiled head of its political bureau Khaled Meshaal sounded a more belligerent note saying power was only a "means to an end". He said:"We and the Zionists have a date with destiny. If they want a fight, we are ready for it. If they want a war, we are the sons of war."

Criticising the Jewish settlements in the West Bank - while also condemning suicide bombings - the former US President, Jimmy Carter, said in an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz yesterday that the, "pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonisation of Palestine".

* Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 10-year-old Palestinian girl yesterday during an arrest raid in a West Bank village.

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