Israel says it captured the last two Palestinian prisoners who escaped from a maximum-security prison more than 10 days ago.
The jailbreak embarrassed Israel’s security establishment but delighted Palestinians who see members of armed groups jailed by Israel as heroes in the struggle for Palestinian statehood.
Fouad Kamamji, father of prisoner Ayham Kamamji who was rearrested on Sunday at dawn, told local TV: “He [Ayham] risked his life, got out, and managed to get to Jenin – despite all the military reinforcements, the army and all the technology that Israel owns, he managed to get to Jenin” and “hold out for two weeks.”
The men, the last of the six who escaped Gilboa prison on September 6, were found in the eastern district of Jenin city, the police announced on Twitter on Sunday.
Israeli police identified the men as Ayham Nayef Kamamji and Munadel Yacoub Infai’at. Kamamji, 35, was arrested in 2006 and is serving a life sentence, and Infai’at, 26, was arrested in 2019, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
Fouad Kamamji said he received a phone call from his son at 1:45am informing him that he was surrounded by Israeli occupation forces in Jenin.
“For the safety of the people I’m staying in, I am turning myself in,” Ayham reportedly told his father, who said he was shocked by the call. “I told him: May God keep you safe.”
Fouad added he believes the home that provided Ayham with shelter in represents “real patriotism” and the essence of the Palestinian people.
The Israeli army said the men turned themselves in “after being surrounded by security forces” acting on intelligence.
Meanwhile, family of Munadel Infai’at, from the village of Ya’bad in Jenin, said in a live TV interview that the family found out about the arrest of his son through media at 2:30am.
His mother described Munadel’s rearrest as a “disaster” and said the family had no prior knowledge of him being in Jenin.
“I hold Israel responsible – if anything happens to my son – they will be held responsible,” she said.
Palestinians in Jenin clashed with Israeli troops as they raided the city early on Sunday, residents said. The Israeli military said clashes broke out as the forces withdrew, with residents hurling rocks and explosives at troops who responded with live fire.
Israeli authorities announced the rearrest of Mahmoud Abdullah al-Ardah, 46, and Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, on the southern outskirts of Nazareth late on Friday. Zakaria Zubeidi, 46 and Mohammed al-Ardah, 39, were arrested nearby early on Saturday, in the Palestinian village of Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam.
At a court hearing in Nazareth on Sunday, Israeli authorities once again extended their detention for another ten days to continue the interrogation process where they are being held at Jalama Detention Center near Haifa.
Meanwhile, prisoners Ayham Kamamji and Munadel Infai’at are expected to appear before the court in Nazareth later on Sunday, where it is expected that their detention order will be extended.
The six Palestinians broke out of the maximum-security Israeli prison by digging a tunnel under a sink in their cell, using spoons, plates and even the handle of a kettle.
Their lawyers say the men began work on the tunnel last December.
The bold escape dominated newscasts for days and sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service.
Palestinians have protested in support of the men across the country, and Palestinian citizens of Israel planned protests around the court hearing on Sunday.
In a short statement, the Hamas political party saluted the rearrested prisoners, and said the “leadership of the resistance is working to complete an honorable [prisoner] exchange deal for our prisoners and our people, of which the six prisoners will be among its heroes.”
Qaddura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, said the six prisoners “restored the unity of the Palestinian street”.
He added that Palestinian prisoners “have become more aware of their ability to influence the national situation.”