Palestinians ‘pained’ by capture of escaped prisoners
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Palestinians ‘pained’ by capture of escaped prisoners

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The capture of four of the six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison does not diminish the significance of the “big achievement,” Palestinians said on Saturday.

Palestinian factions, meanwhile, warned Israel against harming the inmates and vowed to continue the fight to secure the release of all the security prisoners from Israeli prison.

As part of a morale-boosting campaign, the factions and several social media activists posted photoshopped images of the inmates smiling while in police custody. In the original photos released by the police, none of the captured inmates are seen smiling.

Shortly after the first two escapees, Mahmoud al-Ardah and Yaqoub al-Qadri, were caught on Friday night, hundreds of Palestinians converged on their homes in the town of Arrabeh and Bir al-Basha in the Jenin area to express solidarity with the prisoners.

Ardah, a veteran Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) prisoner, has been described by the terrorist organization as the mastermind behind the escape. He was sentenced 16 years ago to life imprisonment and an additional 15 years for carrying out a number of terrorist attacks.

(L-R) Yakoub Mohammed Qadri and Mohammed Ardah in the original police photos taken after their arrests. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE)Qadri, also a member of PIJ, is serving two life sentences and an additional 35 years also for his role in a series of terrorist attacks.

Chanting slogans in support of the “heroes,” the Palestinians expressed disappointment over the arrest of the two and called on Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip to retaliate by firing rockets into Israel.

Palestinian journalist Mahmoud Samoudi, a correspondent for Palestine TV, commented: “The people in Jenin and all the Palestinians are shocked. They are pained and saddened over the arrest of the four prisoners.”

Emad Abu al-Rub, a resident of Jenin, said that despite the capture of the inmates, “the Palestinian prisoners will be remembered for their heroic escape from Israeli prison.”

Ja’far Ghawadrah, a Fatah leader in Bir al-Basha, said that all Palestinians were happy when they heard about the jailbreak. “But,” he said, “from the outset we were also worried about what could happen to the prisoners. The news of the arrest of the prisoners came as a shock and disappointment.”

Zakaria Zubeidi, who was apprehended early Saturday, is a former commander of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Fatah faction, in Jenin Refugee Camp. Zubeidi was awaiting trial for his role in a number of terrorist attacks.

Mohammed Ardah, who was caught together with Zubeidi, is the brother of Mahmoud Ardah. Mohammed, also a member of PIJ, is serving three life sentences plus 20 years for carrying out several terrorist attacks.

The PLO reacted to the capture of the escaped prisoners by holding the Israeli government fully responsible for the lives and safety of the inmates.

The PLO said in a statement that “international laws consider the inmates prisoners of war, and that the occupation is illegal.”

“The detention of thousands of prisoners is invalid under international law, and therefore the international community and all its bodies are required to assume their responsibilities towards the laws and agreements that they endorsed and which condemn the occupation of the Palestinian and Arab lands and all practices and violations of human rights, including the incarceration of prisoners,” the statement read.

The PLO described the security prisoners as “the best Palestinian youth who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their homeland and their people.”

Fatah, for its part, said that the capture of Zubeidi and his friends “will not weaken the resolve of our prisoners, nor the determination of our great Palestinian people, who are experienced in struggle and confronting the colonial Zionist project for more than a hundred years.”

Noting that Zubeidi was also a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the faction’s parliamentary body, Fatah said that the capture of the escaped inmates “will only increase the determination of the prisoners and all Palestinians to continue the struggle and resistance against the occupation.”

Fatah accused the Israeli security forces of beating Zubeidi during the arrest and warned the Israeli government against harming him or his friends.

“The Israeli government bears full responsibility for these war crimes or harming the lives of our heroic prisoners,” Fatah added, criticizing the “silence” of the international community.

Ata Abu Rmaileh, Secretary-General of Fatah in Jenin, said that “all Palestinians were shocked” by the capture of the escaped inmates. “The news also came as a shock to all the Arabs and Muslims,” Abu Rmaileh said. “But this is the fate of our people – to rejoice and to witness tragedies. The most important thing is that we have not lost hope. The six heroes gave hope to our people and all Arabs and Muslims. By using simple tools, they were able to defeat the Israeli security system.”

Hamas described the capture of the fugitives as another episode in the conflict with Israel.

“The arrest process will only serve as an incentive for our people to continue their resistance and uprising against the occupation and in support of the prisoners,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum. “History will record the heroic and courageous act of the heroes, who dealt a blow to the prestige of the occupation and its security system.”

Barhoum expressed hope that the Palestinians in the West Bank would “step up the resistance and jihad” against Israel.

Mohammed Hamadeh, another Hamas official, boasted that the escaped prisoners had humiliated Israel.

Hamadeh said that the Palestinians were “pained” to see the fugitives captured by the police and pledged that Hamas will spare no effort to secure the release of all the prisoners held by Israel.

Hamas official Faza’ Sawafta, stressed that the capture of the fugitives “does not cancel the magnitude of the security earthquake that shook the Zionist security system.”

He added: “What these heroes did is a great victory. We will meet these heroes sooner or later in an honorable prisoner exchange deal.”

Bassam al-Sa’di, a senior PIJ official in Jenin, warned Israel against harming the prisoners. “We warn the occupation not to provoke the Palestinian people,” he said. “The Palestinian people will not abandon the heroic prisoners. The escape from Gilboa Prison drew the attention of the entire Palestinian people and all the Arabs and Muslims to the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners.”

The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) praised the “brave heroes who have become icons of the Palestinian struggle.”

A statement issued by the PFLP said that the arrest of some of the escaped prisoners “does not diminish the qualitative achievement they have made.”

The PFLP too expressed “pain” over the capture of the fugitive and warned Israel against harming them, saying that would result in a “volcano of popular anger.”

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