Israel Captures 2 of 6 Palestinian Fugitives Who Escaped Prison

JERUSALEM — The Israeli police captured Friday night time two of the six Palestinian fugitives who had escaped a maximum-security jail this week, in a case seen as a uncommon humiliation of the nation’s safety institution.

The two fugitives, Mahmoud al-Arida and Yaqoub Qadri, have been captured in Nazareth, in northern Israel, an Israeli safety official mentioned, 5 days after they’d escaped by way of a gap within the ground of the bathe cubicle of their cell and tunneled out of the jail.

The official, who spoke on situation of anonymity, mentioned the pair have been each members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Islamist militant group, and have been serving life sentences for involvement in assaults on Israeli civilians.

Video revealed by the Israeli information media confirmed the 2 males handcuffed inside police vehicles, sporting civilian garments. Israeli information shops reported that the pair had been arrested after a tip by Nazareth residents, who mentioned they’d requested for meals.

Their escape had been seen as an alarming embarrassment by Israelis, who questioned how such high-profile prisoners had been capable of escape a high-security jail with out being detected for greater than two hours.

To Palestinians, their flight was a fleeting trigger for celebration — a symbolic victory over an Israeli jail equipment that’s seen as synonymous with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The 4 different fugitives remained at massive late Friday, together with the very best recognized of them — Zakaria Zubeidi, a outstanding militant chief in the course of the second Palestinian intifada, or rebellion, in the course of the 2000s.

An Israeli checkpoint close to Afula, as officers looked for the escaped Palestinian prisoners on Friday. Credit…Atef Safadi/EPA, by way of Shutterstock

Mr. Zubeidi was a commander of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a militant group loosely affiliated with Fatah, the secular group that dominates Palestinian establishments within the occupied West Bank.

After the intifada, Mr. Zubeidi renounced violence, turning to political theater and serving to to run the Freedom Theater in his hometown, Jenin, within the northern West Bank. But he was arrested once more in 2019, accused of serving to to orchestrate assaults on Israeli settlers.

The six cellmates escaped from Gilboa jail at about 1:30 a.m. Monday, after eradicating half of the bathe cubicle ground and reducing themselves right into a cavity that runs beneath the jail. They then crawled almost 32 yards beneath two partitions, two barbed-wire fences and a pack of sniffer canines, evading the detection of 40 jail guards.

The fugitives emerged by way of a gap within the floor, only a few ft past the jail’s jap wall, earlier than leaving on foot by way of the fields close by. Their absence was confirmed at about three:30 a.m., after civilians within the space reported suspicious figures transferring round close to the jail, prompting a jail roll name.

Attempting to forestall a second jailbreak, Israeli officers moved 80 different prisoners from Gilboa to different jails, a transfer that set off riots in some of these jails.

The escape additionally prompted a number of protests throughout the West Bank, as Palestinians expressed solidarity with these on the run. About 5,000 Palestinians are incarcerated in Israeli jails, totally on terrorism prices. Many Palestinians see them as heroes of the battle for Palestinian sovereignty.

After the arrests, two rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip, the place Islamic Jihad has a stronghold. No accidents have been reported, and it was not instantly clear if the rockets have been linked to the arrests.

In a separate episode earlier within the day, a Palestinian physician, Hazem al-Julani, tried to stab an Israeli police officer within the Old City of Jerusalem, prompting officers to shoot and kill him. He was the newest of at the very least 60 Palestinians killed because the begin of the yr, largely by Israeli safety officers, based on a tally compiled by the rights group, B’Tselem.

Jonathan Rosen contributed reporting.