Two Palestinian prisoners remain free - #24

Four of the six escapees re-captured over weekend.

One week on from the Great Palestinian Escape, two of the six escaped prisoners of war remain free and in hiding.

Mahmoud Arda, 46, and Yacoub Qadri, 49 were arrested late on Friday night in the city of Nazareth.

And Muhammed Arda, 39, and Zakaria Zubeidi, 46, were apprehended on Saturday in Umm al-Ghanam, a second Palestinian town in the north of occupied Palestine (present-day Israel).

Still free as of this writing (Monday afternoon) are Ayham Kamamji, 35, and Munadel Infiat, 26.

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Infiat had been held in custody without charge or trial.

All six prisoners are allegedly Palestinian militants. They escaped by tunnelling out of a “high security” Israeli prison, Gilboa, in the early hours of 6 September — using a rusty spoon.

Infiat had been interned under Israel’s habitual repressive practice of “administrative detention”. The policy is a hold-over from Britain’s colonial occupation of Palestine, utilized by Israel since 1948, almost exclusively against Palestinians.

The 26-year-old escaped prisoner is alleged to be a fighter from Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian resistance faction.

My colleague at The Electronic Intifada Tamara Nassar reported last week on Israel’s massive manhunt to find the six men, as well as its measures of collective punishment.

A wounded Goliath, Israel immediately began “a series of collective, punitive, retaliatory and arbitrary measures” against Palestinian prisoners en masse, according to prisoners rights group Addameer.

Prison authorities began transferring hundreds of prisoners in Gilboa to other locations for investigation and interrogations.

Prison authorities are also using a variety of tactics to retaliate, including withholding meals, denying prisoners certain rights they gained through protests and hunger strikes, conducting raids and searches of prison cells and scattering prisoners affiliated with Islamic Jihad across different rooms, sections and prisons.

Israeli press reports speculated yesterday that at least one of the two remaining escapees have entered the West Bank, where the Palestinian town of Jenin lies. All six men are from Jenin.

As well as collective punishment, Israeli occupation troops have also been effectively taking the escapees family members hostage.

“In total, some 15 Palestinians had been arrested by Monday morning in connection with the fugitives,” The Times of Israel reported on Monday. The arrests have apparently been made without charge or trial.

The hostages include the brother and cousin of Ayham Kamamji, who remains free as of this writing.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas’ iconic spokesman, Abu Obeida, has vowed that all six men must be included in the next prisoner swap with Israel. Hamas and Israel have in recent weeks been reportedly close to just such a deal.


My work this week

For my Middle East Monitor column this week I wrote this analysis of the Palestinian prison break and its implications for the future of the Israeli “security” regime.

This is a significant defeat for the Israeli occupation and a milestone in the history of Palestinian resistance.

Internally, Israeli policymakers, politicians and the security-intelligence establishment must be feeling utter dismay. The Israeli press is full of mutual recriminations. Two Israeli jail guards have reportedly been interrogated, as authorities seem to suspect an inside job.

On Thursday, popular Israeli tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth led with the headline “Photo of failure” captioned over a shot of the exit of the escape tunnel just outside the prison walls. The hole appears to be right underneath a watchtower.

Read the full piece here.

Tweets of the Week

Palestinians in Washington, DC scattered spoons outside Israel’s US embassy. The spoon that the six prisoners used to escape has become an icon of freedom.