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Israel says two remaining Palestinian prison escapees arrested in Jenin

Iham Kamamji (L) and Munadil Nafiyat (R), the two remaining Palestinian prisoners who escaped from high-security Gilboa prison earlier this month, were allegedly arrested on September 19, 2021.

Israel says its forces have arrested the two remaining Palestinian prisoners, who escaped from a high-security jail nearly two weeks ago.

The Israeli ministry of military affairs said early on Sunday that Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, both members of the Islamic Jihad resistance movement, were apprehended in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

It said the two Palestinians “were caught alive”, surrendering without resistance after troops encircled the building where they were hiding.

Fouad Kamamji, Iham’s father, told the Associated Press that his son had called him when the Israeli troops surrounded the house and said he would surrender “in order not to endanger the house owners.”

Palestinian media outlets said there were exchanges of gunfire during the pre-dawn raid by Israeli special forces, but there were no reports of casualties.

Two other Palestinians, reportedly Jenin residents, were also arrested in the raid. 

Kamamji, originally from Kafr Dan village which lies 8 kilometers (4.9 miles) northwest of Jenin, was arrested in 2006 and jailed for life over alleged murder of an Israeli settler.

Nafayat has not been charged with a crime other than being a member of the Islamic Jihad movement. He was being held under Israel’s practice of the so-called administrative detention, which allows the regime to imprison suspects without charge.

In the predawn hours of September 6, Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in Jenin and five Islamic Jihad members tunneled their way out through their cell’s drainage system and escaped from Gilboa prison.

Four of the Islamic Jihad members were serving life sentences.

On September 11, Israeli media outlets reported that four of the escapees had been arrested in the northern part of the occupied territories.

Hamas has warned Israel of serious consequences amid reports that the regime has launched repressive measures against Palestinian prisoners in the wake of the recent escape.

The movement has said the Palestinian nation and resistance fighters will not remain silent in the face of ongoing violations, and that Israeli prison officials will pay a heavy price for their continued torture of Palestinian inmates.

Prison authorities keep Palestinian inmates under deplorable conditions lacking proper hygienic standards. The prisoners have also been subjected to systematic torture, harassment and repression, according to Palestinian officials.

Human rights organizations say Israel violates all the rights and freedoms granted to prisoners under the Fourth Geneva Convention. 

There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have been apparently incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention.

‘Israel would at last free all six Palestinian escapees itself’

Resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad reacted to the arrests, saying Israeli prison authorities would be ultimately forced to release all the six Palestinian inmates  themselves.

“We salute the heroes of Operation Freedom Tunnel, and commend them for having proved Palestinians' ability to resist in any situation,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

“The operation will remain as an undeniable proof of the Israeli security service’s fragility and weakness as well as its instability to withstand Palestinians’ strong willpower,” he said. 

“What these six prisoners did was an act of great heroism. It was an outstanding achievement and will be recorded in the history of the Palestinian nation’s struggle,” Qassem said.

He said the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas movement, will place the names of the six Palestinian prisoners at the top of a future prisoner exchange list with Israel.

“Israeli prison guards would ultimately open up the doors and set them free themselves. Attempts to free Palestinian prisoners are at the top of the resistance's priorities,” Qassem said.

Prominent Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Khader Adnan said, “Israel’s re-arrest of the six Palestinian escapees and subsequent imprisonment will never dim the inmates’ glory and victory.”

Adnan stressed that the arrests will not erase the humiliating defeat that the Tel Aviv regime suffered.

The senior Islamic Jihad leader also called on all Palestinians to support prisoners, especially those being held in solitary confinement, those subjected to torture and those who have gone on hunger strike.

“Do whatever you can for the freedom, honor and dignity of the 4,600 prisoners! It is an obligation for our nation and all freedom-loving people of the world,” Adnan said.

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