Six Palestinian Detainees Escape From Israeli Prison

04:00 Sep 6 2021 Israel's Gilboa high-security prison

Escaped Detainees ID cards. Published by IMEMC News

Escapee tunnel. Published by IMEMC News

Zakariyya Zobeidi. Published by IMEMC News

A man walks by a banner depicting the six Palestinian prison escapees, Bethlehem, in the West Bank, on Wednesday. Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI - AFP Published by Haaretz

by IMEMC News
Sept 6, 2021

Israeli sources have reported that six Palestinian detainees managed to escape from the Gilboa Israeli high-security prison, in the northern part of the country, after digging a tunnel.

The sources stated that one of the detainees is Zakariyya Zobeidi, the former leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, in northern West Bank. The other five escaped political prisoners are all members of the Islami Jihad movement.

Israel alleges that Zobeidi was responsible for an attack on the Likud Party headquarters in Bisan, in the year 2002, leading to the death of six Israelis.

Israeli also alleges that when he was taken prisoner in the year 2019, he was planning what was described as a serious attack against Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank, and for reportedly carrying out two shooting attacks against Israeli buses for colonialist settlers near Beit El and Psagot colonies in the West Bank.

Israeli sources said the six detainees were all in the same cell, and that their escape was uncovered approximately at 4:00 on Monday at dawn during a headcount.

The Israeli police, Internal Security, and various other agencies have initiated a search campaign, in addition to a probe into how the detainees were able to escape without being noticed until a few hours later. Gilboa’ prison is well fortified and has extremely high-security measures.

A massive search campaign was initiated, including in all surrounding Palestinian villages and towns, close to the northern border with the West Bank, and Jordan.

Israeli daily Haaretz quoted prison officials stating that the six detainees managed to dig the tunnel over the past few months, and added that the Shin Bet (The Israeli Security Agency) believes that they managed to coordinate help with people in the outside through smuggled cellphones.

It added that the detainees had an escape car waiting for them and that they were first noticed by farmers who notified the police.

The Prison Service also told Haaretz that the escape is a “major intelligence and security failure.”

After the escape of the six detainees, Israeli decided to transfer around 400 political prisoners from Gilboa to various others prisons.

Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth has reported that the Israeli army has decided to install many military roadblocks around Jenin, after surrounding it, to prevent the escaped detainees from reaching there.

It is worth noting that Israel is holding captive around 4850 Palestinian detainees, including 41 women and 225 children. 540 of the Palestinian detainees are held under arbitrary Administrative Detention orders without charges or trial.

The Al-Arabiya – Palestine TV said:

Zakariyya Zobeidi, 46, from the Jenin refugee camp was abducted in 2019 and has not been sentenced yet.

Mahmoud Abdullah ‘Aarda, 46, from Arraba – Jenin, was abducted in 1996 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Mohammad Qassem ‘Aarda, 39, from Arraba – Jenin, was abducted in 2002 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Monadel Yacoub Enfei’at, 26 from Ya’bad – Jenin, was abducted in 2019.

Yacoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, from Be’er al-Basha – Jenin, was abducted in 2003 and was sentenced to a life term in prison.

Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, from Kafr Dan – Jenin, was abducted in 2006 and was sentenced to a life term in prison.

Yes, the Palestinian Prison Escapees Are Freedom Fighters

by Gideon Levy for Haaretz
Sept 9, 2021

The six escaped Palestinian prisoners are the boldest freedom fighters imaginable. The Israelis who find this hard to admit would do well to recall many of the movies and television series they have seen: Escaping from prison is the perfect “happy ending.”

The Acre Prison Break of 1947 – in which members of the Irgun, the pre-state underground militia led by Menachem Begin, broke in to the city’s prison to free militia members held by the British Mandate government – has been etched forever into the collective memory as part of the ethos of heroism. But what’s good for movies and for Jews is never applicable to Palestinians. The six escapees are only terrorists, and the national sentiment wants to see them dead. Meanwhile, social media is buzzing with witty cracks about the escape, perhaps in order to avoid dealing with its significance or to flee from the embarrassment.

The six defiant ones chose the path of cruel and violent resistance to the occupation. One can argue about its effectiveness against the strong and well-armed Israeli state, but its justness cannot be questioned. They have the right to use violence to resist an occupation that is crueler and more violent than any Palestinian terror.

After they were captured, they were given sentences that were draconian and lacked all proportion, particularly when compared to sentencing norms in Israel for other convicts. Their prison conditions are likewise a disgrace, failing any test of humanity and human rights, including a comparison with the conditions in which the worst criminal prisoners are held. Ignore the vile and fallacious propaganda about their conditions, with the photo of the baklava in prison: No one held in an Israeli prison has such conditions. Decades without a furlough or a legal phone call with family, sometimes also without visits from family, living in such crowded conditions that even the High Court of Justice found it necessary to weigh in.

Most of the six escapees have already served about 20 years in prison, with no chance of a future: Each of them received a few life sentences plus 20 to 30 years. Why wouldn’t they try to escape? Why shouldn’t there be a tiny bit of understanding for their act and even a secret hope that after having escaped they will disappear and begin a new life, like in the movies?

I know Zakaria Zubeidi very well; I could even call myself his friend. Like a handful of other Israeli journalists, I met him often over the years, particularly when he was a wanted man. Until about three years ago I was still sending him opinion pieces from the Haaretz archive that he wanted for his master’s thesis. Nevertheless, he remained a bit of a puzzle to me, and the entanglement that led to his rearrest about two years ago is still a mystery; Zakaria is not a boy, he is a father now, so why?

But his story is a classic tale of a victim and a hero. “I never lived like a human being,” he told me once. As a young boy, he was already carrying bags of sand at a construction site on Abbas Street in Haifa, while Jews his age were at home with their parents. His father died when he was young; he was a teenager when his mother was shot and killed by IDF forces in the window of her home, and a few weeks later his brother was killed and his house was demolished by the army. Of all of his friends in the Jenin refugee camp who were immortalized in the wonderful 2004 documentary “Arna’s Children,” only he is still alive. In 2004 he told me, “I am dead. I know that I am dead,” but luck, or something else, was on his side.

Like Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian heroes, he wanted peace with Israel, but under conditions of justice and honor for his people, and he too felt that the only option left to him was that of violent resistance. I have never seen him without a gun.

I think about Zakaria now and I hope that he will escape to freedom, just as I hope that Barghouti will one day be set free. These people deserve to be punished for their actions, but they also deserve understanding and appreciation for their courage and above all for their righteousness. Israel decided to keep them in prison forever, and they are trying, each one in his own way, to annul the unjust, evil decree. They are exactly what I would call freedom fighters. Fighters for the freedom of Palestine. How could they be called anything else?
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