Israel captures last two escaped Palestinians

Palestinian artists paint a mural honoring the six men who escaped Israel’s northern Gilboa prison, in Gaza City (Youssef Abu Watfa - APA Images)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  September 20, 2021

Overnight on Sunday, Israeli occupation forces captured the two remaining Palestinians who had escaped from one of its most fortified prisons earlier this month.

Ayham Kamamji and Munadel Infiat were detained in the northern occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Israel’s domestic spying and torture agency Shin Bet received intel on the two men’s location a few hours prior to arresting them, according to Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

Israeli police and soldiers surrounded the house they were staying in.

Israel had reportedly known the pair were in Jenin for several days. Police chief Kobi Shabtai said that Israel had been preparing for a “complex operation” to capture the men.

But both men, unarmed, surrendered without resistance.

In an interview with local media, Kamamji’s father said his son called him in the early hours of Sunday and explained that he had decided to turn himself in to protect the residents of the building.

It is not unreasonable, given Israel has regularly used the so-called pressure cooker procedure to compel wanted Palestinians to surrender from a building in which they are hiding, or else be extra-judicially executed.

Israeli forces do this by using construction machines as weapons, along with firearms and explosives, to gradually destroy the building on top of those hiding inside if they refuse to surrender.

Others questioned why the pair had not gone to Jenin refugee camp, which is close to the city and an area that Israel avoids because of heavy resistance.

Nonetheless, their ability to avoid capture for nearly two weeks, while making it into the occupied West Bank amid a massive manhunt, has been a major embarrassment and humiliation for Israel.

Despite their recapture, the six men’s escape is seen as a morale-boosting victory for Palestinians everywhere, who view their feat as a devastating blow to Israel’s so-called security apparatus.

It is not clear whether the Palestinian Authority or other informants played a role in the men’s capture, given the PA’s so-called security coordination – collaboration – with Israel.

The six men had escaped from Israel’s northern Gilboa prison on 6 September through an underground tunnel from the bathroom of their cell.

The tunnel emerged just outside the prison walls directly under a watchtower.

Mahmoud Arda and Yacoub Qadri were detained in the city of Nazareth in northern Israel on 10 September, while Muhammad Arda and Zakaria Zubeidi were arrested early the next day in Shibli Umm al-Ghanam, a Palestinian town in the north of Israel.

Israel’s intelligence and prison authorities have been interrogating the four men who face new charges relating to their escape.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada