“It’s done,” Bennett said. “The six terrorists have been picked up – and will be returned to prison – in an impressive, sophisticated and swift operation by the Shin Bet, the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces. “
The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to “the security forces who worked day and night, including Shabbat and holidays, to bring the event to an end. What is broken, it is possible to fix it.
After his public statement, Bennett also called on the heads of the organizations involved in the raid to arrest – Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Israeli police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, head of the IDF central command. Yehuda Fuchs, head of the Shin Bet operations department and commander of the Yamam police counterterrorism unit – to applaud their efforts, his office said.
“This event started with a major debacle, but you gathered your forces to complete the mission, and six of the six terrorists returned to prison,” Bennett told defense chiefs.
On Saturday night, security forces arrested the last two of six security prisoners, who escaped from Gilboa prison in northern Israel nearly two weeks ago, the military said.
The arrests of the fugitives – a week after the other four escaped prisoners were recaptured in northern Israel – ended a massive 13-day manhunt after one of the country’s worst prison escapes. history of Israel.
Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, both members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, were arrested in the West Bank city of Jenin, the Israel Defense Forces said on Sunday.
Munadil Nafiyat (left) and Iham Kamamji (right), the last two Palestinian fugitives from the Gilboa prison escape, are arrested on September 19, 2021 (Courtesy)
“The two terrorists were captured alive and handed over for questioning by the security forces,” the army said. They were captured following a joint operation by the IDF, the Shin Bet security services and the Yamam police unit.
Barlev issued a statement applauding the capture of Kamamji and Nafiyat.
“Kudos to the forces of the Israel Police, the IDF and the Shin Bet, who have proven once again that they can be trusted,” Barlev said. “With professional, keen and precise efforts, the six escaped terrorists were quickly located and surrounded.”
Barlev said that the work of the Ministry of Public Security “is not yet finished” and that in the coming days the government commission of inquiry into the prison break will begin its work and will be “responsible for patching up the remaining holes ”.
In comments ahead of the cabinet meeting last week, Bennett said the incident should serve as a “wake-up call” and “requires investigation and lessons to be learned.”
“Some state systems have deteriorated in recent years and must go through processes of correction, efficiency, research for excellence,” added the Prime Minister. “It is possible and it is necessary to operate differently… what is wrong can be fixed. “
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday that the capture of the last two escaped prisoners “was made possible by the dedication of Yamam commanders and fighters, the police, the Shin Bet and the IDF.”
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman also hailed the capture of the remaining fugitives.
“While the rest of us continued to live from day to day, the security forces did not stop their mission,” Liberman said. “They continued to work to locate and capture the terrorists and restored public safety. “
During the capture of Kamamji and Nafiyat on Saturday night, IDF forces first distracted attention from the house where they were hiding by sending large numbers of soldiers to another part of town as a distraction. and then sending a smaller team into the field. site.
“The two terrorists surrendered and left without opening fire. The arrest went smoothly, ”said Lt. Col. Alon Hanoni, deputy commander of the IDF Menashe regional command, which is responsible for the Jenin region.
Originally from Kafr Dan, near Jenin, Kamamji was arrested in 2006 and jailed for life for the kidnapping and murder of a young Israeli, Eliahu Asheri. He expressed his pride in the murder during his trial, saying Asheri, 18, was “not a child” because he had studied at a military academy.
Nafayat has not been charged with any crime other than being a member of the Islamic Jihad and was being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows him to jail suspects without filing a complaint. He is believed to have illegally sold weapons.
“Over time, we knew they were in Jenin,” Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said on Sunday morning. “We prepared for several days for a complex mission and this evening, after receiving the information we were waiting for, the signal was given to start the operation, with Yamam forces in the front line. “
The arrest was made possible by “specific intelligence received by the Shin Bet, which identified the building in which the two were hiding in Jenin,” the internal security service said.
The six Palestinian prisoners escaped from Gilboa prison before dawn on September 6, making their way through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space under the prison. They allegedly started digging in November, using pan plates and handles, construction debris and part of a metal hanger, according to various reports.
The escape revealed a series of failures at the prison. Among the apparent shortcomings were the inability to learn lessons from previous escape attempts and several operational errors, including unmanned watchtowers and sleeping guards.
Four of the six escapees, including the notorious terrorist commander Zakaria Zubeidi, were arrested by security forces last weekend. Yaqoub Qadiri and Mahmoud al-Arida, the latter believed to have been the mastermind of the escape, were arrested in the northern city of Nazareth.
Al-Arida, considered a prominent member of Islamic Jihad, has been jailed for life for terrorist activities, including attacks in which soldiers were killed. Qadiri, also a member of Islamic Jihad, was also serving life sentences for acts of terrorism, including the murder of an Israeli in 2004. The two men were allegedly involved in an attempted escape from Gilboa in 2014.
Zubeidi, a commander of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist group, was in prison on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder. The young al-Arida, also a member of the Islamic Jihad, was arrested in 2002 for terrorist offenses and sentenced to life in prison.
Among Palestinians, the fugitives were widely viewed as “heroes” who managed to free themselves from several life sentences. The escape was followed by heightened tensions in the West Bank, a knife attack in Jerusalem, several other attempted attacks and sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.