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Israel Attacks A Help Or Hindrance?

Palestinian prison damaged in Israeli air strike Feb. 7
AP
Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to round up more suspected terrorists.

But Israel keeps indirectly setting suspected terrorists free, reports CBS News Correspondent David Hawkins.

Take Ali Safouri, for example. He's a wanted man, a top commander of Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian terrorist group behind many of the attacks against Israel.

After Israel demanded that the Palestinians arrest him and throw him in jail, they did.

Last week, an Israeli air strike set him free.

"I saw the F-16s flying in the sky," said Safouri. "We moved just before the rockets hit."


Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


The air strike obliterated the building where Safouri was being held under armed guard. In the chaos, he escaped and is now in hiding.

The Palestinian Authority complains that when they do lock up wanted militants or terrorists, the Israelis attack the prisons, sometimes allowing the prisoners to escape or forcing their jailers to let them go.

Just the threat of Israeli air strikes has resulted in the release of more than 300 militants. After an Israeli attack on a Palestinian security compound in the Gaza Strip last week, mobs in West Bank cities stormed the prisons and freed dozens of inmates.

Although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, Israeli officials deny hitting Palestinian prisons or targeting the terrorists behind bars inside them.

"I think the best proof is that no one was hit," said Daniel Ayalon, an adviser to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. "No prisoner was really hurt by any of our operations."

It hasn't been for lack of trying, says Ali Safouri, the escaped terrorist. He's convinced that the Israeli missiles that destroyed his cell were meant for him.

"God came to my rescue," he told CBS News.

Perhaps with a little help from an Israeli F-16.

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