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Israel recaptures four of six Palestinian jail breakers

Palestinians hail escape as 'heroic', warn against revenge on prisoners

By AFP - Sep 11,2021 - Last updated at Sep 11,2021

Arab Israeli protesters lift Palestinian flags and placards depicting six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel's Gilboa Prison, as they demonstrate to support them in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth, on Saturday (AFP photo)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel has recaptured four of the six Palestinians who escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week, occupation forces said Saturday.

Since Monday's breakout, the occupation forces have poured troops into the occupied West Bank for a massive manhunt.

But the two latest fugitives to be recaptured, who include a prominent former resistance leader, were found hiding in a lorry park just outside Nazareth in northern occupied Palestine, occupation forces said.

Zakaria Zubeidi, 45, is a former leader of the Fateh movement in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Mohammad Ardah, 39, was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for his role in Islamic Jihad's armed wing.

"Two more prisoners who escaped were captured a short time ago... while they were hiding in a parking lot for trucks," the forces said.

"The hunt for the other two fugitives continues."

On Friday evening, occupation forces recaptured Yaqoub Qadri, 48, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 45, both members of Islamic Jihad. Ardah was the alleged mastermind of the escape.

Huge manhunt 

Israeli media said occupation forces were alerted by residents who reported seeing two men searching litter bins for food.

Shortly after their capture was announced on Friday, the occupation forces said that a rocket had been fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, but was intercepted by air defences.

Occupation forces had conducted a huge search operation for the six prisoners since they broke out of the high-security Gilboa Prison through a tunnel dug beneath a sink in a cell.

The Israeli forces closed all the checkpoints connecting Israel and occupied East Jerusalem with the West Bank in a bid to prevent them escaping into Palestinian population centres.

The six fugitives were all members of Palestinian resistance groups who had been convicted by Israeli courts of plotting or carrying out attacks against Israelis.

Mahmoud Ardah, from Arraba near Jenin, was imprisoned in 1996 for attacks on Israel claimed by Islamic Jihad and was among four to receive a life sentence.

He was held in solitary confinement in 2014 after an escape tunnel was found at Israel’s Shata Prison, according to his Islamic Jihad biography.

On Thursday, Israel announced a formal inquiry into lapses that allowed the six to escape.

A statement from Islamic Jihad said the arrests would not erase the fact of the “heroic” escape, and said any attempt by the Israeli authorities to “take revenge” on the prisoners would be interpreted as a “declaration of war”.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, hailed the “heroes” of the “tunnel of freedom”, and Fatah argued that the arrests “would only increase the resolve” of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation.

When news of the escape first broke on Monday, many people in the Gaza Strip and in Jenin took to the streets to celebrate.

Demonstrations were also held in several West Bank towns and cities, with youths in Nablus setting tyres alight during confrontations with Israeli security forces.

Palestinian resistance had called for a “Day of Rage” in support of the prisoners as the manhunt continued.

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