Violent protests in West Bank after Israel captures two of six escaped prisoners

Palestinians held demonstrations on Friday night across the West Bank, some of them violent, after the Israel Police captured two of the six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from jail earlier this week.

Palestinians opened fire toward Israeli troops at the Jalamah checkpoint near the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, for the second night in a row, according to the Israeli military.

The Israeli army said up to 600 protestors gathered at the checkpoint, as rioters set fire to tires and threw Molotov cocktails toward soldiers stationed there. The military said that it acted to disperse the demonstrators. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Videos circulating on social media also showed small crowds gathering in downtown Ramallah and Hebron’s al-Fawar refugee camp in solidarity with the two recaptured fugitives. Other footage purportedly showed violent disturbances at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank north of Jerusalem.

Palestinian media also reported clashes in Hebron’s al-Aroub refugee camp. The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In another nighttime disturbance in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers reportedly opened fire on a Palestinian trying to hurl a Molotov cocktail toward troops near Hebron. One Palestinian was injured during the incident, Army Radio reported.

Palestinians riot at a demonstration in support of the escape of the six prisoners in the village of Kafr Qaddoum, west of Nablus in the West Bank on September 10, 2021 (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Additionally, gunmen attacked the home of senior Arab Israeli police officer Jamal Hakroush in Kafr Kanna on Friday evening, according to a police spokesperson. There were no injuries in the incident, although the shooting damaged the building.

It was unclear if the attack was linked to the capture of the prisoners, the spokesperson added. Hakroush directs a unit whose directive is to fight rising crime in Arab cities and towns.

The disturbances came in the hours following the capture of two of the escaped prisoners in the northern Israeli town of Nazareth.

Shortly after the arrests, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a single rocket toward Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. The Magen David Adom emergency service said one woman was lightly injured while running for shelter when the siren sounded.

For some Palestinians, the fugitives had been regarded as “heroes” who succeeded in freeing themselves from multiple life sentences. In the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank, some Palestinians had organized sit-ins and joyful gatherings to celebrate the prison break.

Two of the six inmates who escaped Gilboa prison, Yaquob Qadiri (L) and Mahmoud al-Arida, seen after being recaptured in the northern town of Nazareth on September 10, 2021 (Police)

Despite their capture, Islamic Jihad celebrated the escapees and warned Israel against any harm coming to them while in detention, as well as saying this week’s jail bust would not be the last.

“We hold the enemy totally responsible for the lives of the two prisoners arrested in Nazareth. Putting their lives in danger would be a declaration of war against the Palestinian people,” the terror group said in a statement.

Israel “is trying to use the picture of the two fighters’ arrests to try and show that this is a victory, to revitalize the image of its army which has become the target of mockery,” Islamic Jihad spokesperson Daoud Shehab told the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen network.

“This operation absolutely will not be the last,” Shehab warned, referring to the prisoner escape, later adding: “We are perfectly aware that we are engaged in a long struggle.”

Palestinian protesters hold up spoons, reportedly the digging tool used by six Palestinian prisoners who recently escaped from Israel’s Gilboa prison, as they confront Israeli security forces, following a demonstration in the West Bank village of Beita, on September 10, 2021. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The Hamas terror group also hailed the two prisoners’ escape attempt, saying that arresting them would not “break their will.”

“They achieved honor by their successful escape operation, humiliating the occupying power and shattering its prestige. Arresting them will not wash away the shame of occupation, nor will it break [the two prisoners’] will. They will one day be free outside the jailer’s bars,” said Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou.

Scattered rallies also took place in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The terror group described the protests as “spontaneous.”

“Acts of resistance unite our people wherever they are. This is what is happening now in the spontaneous marches in solidarity with the prisoners, and what happened previously in the battle of the Sword of Jerusalem” said Hamas spokesperson Hazim Qasim, referring to the May battle between Israel and the terror group by its Arabic-language name.

Police identified the two captured fugitives as Yaquob Qadiri and Mahmoud al-Arida, both of Islamic Jihad. Al-Arida was reported to be the mastermind of the escape. His younger brother Mohammed is still on the run.

Following the arrests, the two were transferred to the Shin Bet for questioning and officials were hopeful they could provide leads to recapturing the other four fugitives, the Ynet news site reported.

The six escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, making their way out through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space underneath the prison.

Israeli forces have scrambled to find the inmates, all of them believed to be highly dangerous. In recent days, Israeli troops have arrested many of the fugitives’ family members, including five who were arrested in villages near the northern West Bank city of Jenin in the predawn hours of Friday morning, according to Palestinian media.

It was believed that some of the escapees had managed to enter Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank.

The six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa prison on Monday, September 6, 2021. Clockwise from top left: Yaqoub Qadiri, Mohammad al-Arida, Mahmoud al-Arida, Iham Kamamji, Zakaria Zubeidi, and Munadil Nafiyat (Screenshot: Palestinian Prisoners’ Media Office)

Four of the six fugitives were in jail for life in connection with deadly attacks against Israelis; a fifth — the notorious commander in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terror group, Zakaria Zubeidi — was in prison while on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder. Another was being held in administrative detention.

The escape exposed a series of failures at the prison; Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said Thursday that he had decided to form a government commission to probe the incident.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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