Citing details leaked during the Shin Bet interrogation of the four escapees who were recaptured, in particular the notorious terrorist commander Zakaria Zubeidi, the reports detailed the first actions of the fugitives in the first hours after the escape.
After being turned away by local residents, the six men spent less than an hour in a local mosque where they showered and changed their clothes before leaving town. Israeli investigators initially believed they had spent the night there.
Police captured two of the fugitives in Nazareth on Friday evening. Hours later, two more people, including Zubeidi, were apprehended in the nearby town of Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam. In both cases, Arab Israelis who encountered the fugitives reported the suspicious sightings to authorities, aiding in their capture.
The reports highlighted the residents’ refusal to take Zubeidi and his accomplices to the West Bank, as another example of Arab citizens refusing to be complicit in the escape, and also the intentions of the escapees to try to reach the West Bank.
After learning that a significant number of security forces had been deployed along the border with the West Bank, the six fugitives decided to split into three pairs and hide in northern Israel.
Israeli border police in the village of Nau’ra are looking for six Palestinian fugitives who escaped from a high-security prison in northern Israel on September 7, 2021. (Flash90)
Public broadcaster Kan reported that although the four people who were captured largely cooperate with their interrogations, they were unable to provide specific details on the location of the last two escapees.
However, reports said security forces believed they were narrowing down on the location of the latter two – Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat – both of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, with research focusing on the Valley of Jezreel and Jenin in the West Bank.
Haaretz reported on Sunday that Israel had surveillance footage, apparently of one of the suspects crossing a breach in the security fence near the village of Jalameh in the northern West Bank.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev alluded to it in an interview with Channel 12 News on Saturday: “The estimate is that we managed to get to the West Bank. The other could be on either side of the Green Line, ”he said. “We’re going to catch them,” he added.
“It is only a matter of time before the defense establishment reaches out to the other two terrorists,” Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said on Sunday.
“We will not stop until they are captured,” Kohavi added.
However, Kan said there were growing fears that the effort to capture the fugitives would become much more complicated if they did indeed make it to the overcrowded Jenin refugee camp.
This would require an IDF raid which would not only increase the chances of Israeli casualties, but also make it much more difficult to capture them alive, with Israel fearing to make them martyrs, given that they have already been idolized by the Palestinian public for daringly escape it.
Killing the two would also trigger Islamic Jihad revenge attacks, which could lead to an escalation of violence, Kan said citing security officials.
Heavy gunfire was heard in the Jenin area on Sunday, as Israeli security forces reportedly came under fire during the two manhunt.
Palestinian media reported that armed men opened fire on Israeli troops near the town of Araqah, west of the town of Jenin in the northern West Bank.
But an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson told The Times of Israel that the military was not aware of the incident.
Aside from Zubeidi, a commander of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist group, who was in prison while on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder, the other five were all Jihadists. Palestinian Islamic.
Yaqoub Qadiri and Mahmoud al-Arida, the latter believed to have been the mastermind of the escape, were arrested Friday evening in Nazareth, in the north of the country.
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 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 attempt to escape Gilboa in 2014.
Zubeidi and Mohammed al-Arida, the younger brother of the alleged escape mastermind, were later picked up by Israeli counterterrorism police officers near the northern town of Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam around 5 a.m. on Saturday.
The young al-Arida was arrested in 2002 for terrorist offenses and sentenced to life in prison.
Kamamji was serving a life sentence at the time of Monday’s escape, for killing an 18-year-old Israeli in 2006, a murder he allegedly expressed his pride in.
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.
The six men escaped Gilboa prison before dawn Monday morning, making their way through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space under the prison.
The escape revealed a series of failures in the prison, and Public Security Minister Barlev said Thursday he had decided to form a government commission to investigate the incident.
Among the apparent shortcomings were the inability to learn lessons from previous escape attempts and several operational errors, including unmanned watchtowers and sleeping guards.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.