Israel captures last two escaped Palestinian prisoners

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MEA– Israeli forces on Sunday caught the last two of six Palestinian prisoners who tunnelled out of a maximum security Israeli jail nearly two weeks ago, in an escape that embarrassed Israel’s security establishment but delighted Palestinians.

The two members of the Islamic Jihad militant group were apprehended before dawn from a house in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said.

Palestinians see members of armed groups jailed by Israel as heroes in the struggle for statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel considers them terrorists.

An Israeli police spokeswoman identified the men as Ayham Nayef Kamamji and Munadel Yacoub Infeiat. Kamamji, 35, was arrested in 2006 and is serving a life sentence, and Infeiat, 26, was arrested in 2019, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

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.”

Fouad 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 other four prisoners were captured in pairs a week ago near the Arab city of Nazareth in northern Israel.

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.

Kamamji and Infeiat surrendered after being surrounded by Israeli forces, and two other Palestinians were arrested for assisting them, Israel’s military said.

All four were transferred for questioning, the military said in a statement.

At a court hearing in Nazareth on Sunday, Israeli authorities once again extended their detention for another twelve 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.

There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security in the territory.

The six Palestinians who broke free on Sept. 6 had tunnelled a hole through their prison cell. The bold escape dominated newscasts for days and sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service.

Israeli officials say they will investigate any lapses that allowed their escape.

Palestinians have protested in support of the men across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Members of Israel’s Arab minority, who often identify as Palestinians, have also demonstrated in support of the men, with more protests planned for later Sunday.

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