Conflicts & War

Israelis track down 2 of 6 Palestinians who escaped from prison

Jerusalem, Sep 10 (EFE).- Israeli police said that two of the six Palestinians who escaped earlier this week from a high-security prison were apprehended Friday in the mainly Arab northern city of Nazareth.

Following the announcement, a rocket was launched from Gaza in the direction of the Israeli town of Eshkol.

The projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, averting any casualties or damage, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.

The two fugitives, identified as Islamic Jihad militants Yaqoub Qadiri and Mahmoud al-Arida, surrendered peacefully when police caught up with them, according to a statement.

A pursuit involving a helicopter tracked the pair to Mount Precipice, a Christian holy site where Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass during a visit to the Holy Land in 2009.

Both men have been serving life sentences on convictions for carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis, the Palestinian Authority said.

The four escapees who remain at large – three of them with Islamic Jihad – were likewise convicted or awaiting trial.

The sixth fugitive is Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

All six of the men who tunneled out from Gilboa prison hailed from the West Bank city of Jenin, where Israeli forces hunting for the fugitives seized three of Al-Arida brothers earlier Friday.

Five other family members of the escapees remain in custody after being arrested Wednesday, an organization representing Palestinian prisoners said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Friday that Israel would capture all of the fugitives “sooner or later” and that he was hopeful the operation could be concluded without leading to a surge in violence.

Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs in Gaza, threatened reprisals if any of the fugitives was harmed.

In a response to the largest-ever escape from an Israeli jail, authorities tried to disperse 400 Islamic Jihad inmates among several different prisons, but the effort spurred violent resistance inside the penitentiaries.

Demonstrations in support of the inmates by Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have led to clashes with security forces.

Hamas said that the two fugitives detained on Friday “achieved honor by their successful escape operation, humiliating the occupying power and shattering its prestige.”

The Israeli government has blamed the jailbreak on “blunders” by prison officials. EFE jma/dr

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