By Tuesday afternoon, armed members of the Popular Front abducted two French females in the northern Gaza Strip. A short while later, a Swiss member of the Red Cross and an American teacher were snatched. Earlier, two British citizens were abducted by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the West Bank town of Nablus.
Also among the captives are four journalists, including two from South Korea, one from France, and another one from Iran. Another four foreigners whose identity is unclear at this time were also snatched.
Two Australians were also kidnapped Tuesday afternoon in Gaza, while a U.S. national was abducted in Jenin. The two Australians were later said to be set free by their captors.
The Palestinian police commander in Gaza ordered troops in Gaza City to fire at gunmen who attempt to hurt foreign nationals.
Riots near British Council in Gaza (Photo: Reuters)
Some of the kidnappers demanded that the army halt its operation in Jericho and threatened to hurt their captives. One kidnapper in Nablus told Ynet: "If the operation won't end we'll execute captives."
Following the wave of abductions, foreign nationals from France, Britain, Germany and South Korea sought refugee at Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City. The foreigners arrived at the site and asked to be sheltered.
Meanwhile, protestors attacked American and British targets in PA areas. Armed Palestinian from all organizations, headed by PFLP gunmen, entered the British Cultural Center in Gaza, threatening employees, vandalizing property and demanding that the British government interfere in order to stop the IDF's operation.
Gunmen near British consulate (Photo: Reuters)
An eyewitness reported that Palestinian gunmen set fire to the British council office in Gaza. Some protestors also set fire to Israeli, British and U.S. flags.
Alert level in Israeli prisons raised
Most business owners in the Gaza Strip began shutting down their stores in protest of the Jericho operation, thereby launching a spontaneous general strike. Simultaneously, all the armed Palestinian organizations, excluding Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades, issued statements threatening to harm Israel should it not halt the Jericho operation.
In the meantime, the Israel Prison Service decided to raise the alert level in all Israeli prisons where Palestinian security prisoners are being held. All prison guards were asked to be extremely alert to the prisoners' behavior in order to prevent any plan of initiating riots.
About 8,000 security prisoners are jailed in 26 different prisons across the country.
Recently, following Hamas' rise to power in the Palestinian Authority, tensions rose between Hamas and Fatah prisoners. This tension, Israel Prison Service officials estimated, may serve as a motive for the prisoners to launch protests against the prison guards.
Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to the report