Jenin camp braces for defending Gilboa Prison fugitive
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Jenin camp braces for defending Gilboa Prison fugitive

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If Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the six security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison, returns to the Jenin Refugee Camp, Israel will never be able to capture him, masked gunmen and political activists said on Tuesday.

“If Zakaria returns to his home in the camp, everyone here will protect him,” his uncle, Jamal, said as three masked gunmen belonging to the camp’s “monitor unit” set up a makeshift checkpoint at the entrance to the Jenin Refugee Camp.

“The camp is the safest place for Zakaria to be in,” he added. “Look how many people are on the streets to stop the Israeli army from entering the camp.”

As the uncle was speaking, the gunmen from the “monitor unit” spotted a suspicious black vehicle approaching them. One of the gunmen fired warning shots into the air, forcing the driver to make a quick U-Turn and flee the area.

“We thought these were undercover Israeli soldiers searching for Zakaria and the other prisoners,” explained one of the gunmen “We have received information that the Israeli army is planning to storm the camp to search for the six prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison. We are ready to foil any attempt by the Israeli army to raid the camp. We have hundreds of armed men waiting for the Israeli soldiers.”
Israeli soldiers stand guard in the West Bank city of Jenin, on September 06, 2021. Six Palestinian prisoners escaped from a prison in Israel on Monday, prompting a massive manhunt, Israeli authorities said. The extremely rare break-out took place overnight in the Gilboa Penitentiary, a high-securi (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)Meanwhile, dozens of well-wishers flocked to the Zubeidi home in the camp to express solidarity with the family. Some brought Knafeh, the traditional Middle Eastern dessert, while others handed out candies in celebration of the escape of the six inmates.

Zubeidi’s brother, Yahya, and the uncle, Jamal, praised the jailbreak as a “heroic act.” They and several activists in the camp said that the escape was also a severe blow to the Israeli security establishment.

But Yahya pointed out that he does not believe that his brother was the mastermind of the escape. “He always loved adventures, but I don’t believe that he planned the escape from prison,” he added.

According to the brother, Zubeidi spent the past few years in Ramallah, where he was employed as a senior official with the Palestinian Authority Ministry for Prisoners Affairs. Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Jenin camp, was arrested by the IDF in 2019 for his role in a series of terrorist attacks.

“The situation in the camp is very bad,” said Yahya Zubeidi. “I believe that the resistance [against Israel] will continue.”

 masked gunmen in the streets of Jenin Refugee Camp (credit: KHALED ABU-TOAMEH) masked gunmen in the streets of Jenin Refugee Camp (credit: KHALED ABU-TOAMEH)

Shami al-Shami, a former Fatah-affiliated member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the residents of the Jenin Refugee Camp and the armed groups are demanding an end to the Israeli security forces’ “incursions” into the camp.

“The people in the camp are very frustrated and angry,” al-Shami said. “The economic situation is very bad and many people are unemployed. They are demanding solutions. They also want Israel to hand over the bodies of Palestinians who were recently killed in Jenin by the Israeli army. Until then, you will continue to see armed men on the streets of the camp.”

A political activist in the camp said that the escape of the six inmates was a blow not only to Israel, but to the PA too. “The Palestinian Authority, which continues to conduct security coordination with Israel, now looks bad in the eyes of many Palestinians,” according to the activist. “Some people are even accusing the Palestinian Authority security forces of working to help Israel capture or kill the six prisoners. If Israel kills them, there will be an intifada (uprising) against both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

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