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Israel arrests 4 Palestinian fugitives who escaped prison

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the six Palestinians who escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week, is bl...
In this photo provided by Israel Police, Zakaria Zubeidi, left, and Mohammed Aradeh, two of the six Palestinian fugitives, are blindfolded and handcuf...
In this photo provided by Israel Police, Mohammed Aradeh, one of the six Palestinian fugitives, is blindfolded and handcuffed after being recaptured i...
In this photo provided by Israel Police, Palestinian fugitive Zakaria Zubeidi is arrested by Israeli police officers, in Umm al Ghanam, northern Israe...
A protester holds a Palestinian flag and a spoon, which has become a symbol celebrating the six Palestinian prisoners who recently tunneled out of Gil...
Protesters wave a Palestinian flag and one in the crowd holds a spoon, which has become a symbol celebrating the six Palestinian prisoners who tunnele...
An Israeli border police officer works in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Amid increased Israeli-Palestinian tension over a recent ...
A Palestinian man prays at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque during Friday prayers before a protest celebrating the six Palestinian pr...
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2005 file photo, Zakaria Zubeidi, then West Bank leader of Palestinian militant group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades votes during the...
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2004 file photo, then Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and front-runner in the upcoming presidential elections, is ca...
FILE - In this July 31, 200 file photo, Palestinian Zakaria Zubeidi, then leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militant group in the West Bank town...
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2004 file photo, Zakaria Zubeidi, then leader in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank, is carried by supporters during...
FILE - In this April 2, 2005 file photo, Zakaria Zubeidi, center, then local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other militants march in the W...
Members of the group Choosing Life, that includes relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks, protest outside of Ofer Prison near Jerusalem, ...
Protesters chant anti Israel slogans and carry placards that read "six lions found the light at the end of the tunnel, freedom for our prisoners," dur...
A protester holds a spoon, which has become a symbol celebrating the six Palestinian prisoners who recently tunneled out of Gilboa Prison, in Umm el-F...
Palestinian protesters march into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Amid increased Israeli-Palestinian...
Israeli police stand guard at a checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Amid increased Israeli-Palestinian tension over a rec...
In this photo provided by Israel Police, Israeli security forces stand next to two Palestinian fugitives Zakaria Zubeidi, left, and Mohammed Aradeh, b...
Locals gather near Palestinian fugitive Zakaria Zubeidi's hideouts in Umm al-Ghanam, northern Israel, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Following Zubeidi's ar...
Locals look at Palestinian fugitive Zakaria Zubeidi's hideouts in Umm al-Ghanam, northern Israel, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Following Zubeidi's arrest...
CORRECTS NAME, Mahmoud Aradeh is surrounded by guards as they stand in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives...
Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards as they stand in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on...
Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...
Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...
Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the six Palestinians who escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week is surrounded by guards as they stand in a cour...
Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...
Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the six Palestinians who escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week, is bl...

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Zakaria Zubeidi, left, and Mohammed Aradeh, two of the six Palestinian fugitives, are blindfolded and handcuf...

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Mohammed Aradeh, one of the six Palestinian fugitives, is blindfolded and handcuffed after being recaptured i...

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Palestinian fugitive Zakaria Zubeidi is arrested by Israeli police officers, in Umm al Ghanam, northern Israe...

A protester holds a Palestinian flag and a spoon, which has become a symbol celebrating the six Palestinian prisoners who recently tunneled out of Gil...

Protesters wave a Palestinian flag and one in the crowd holds a spoon, which has become a symbol celebrating the six Palestinian prisoners who tunnele...

An Israeli border police officer works in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Amid increased Israeli-Palestinian tension over a recent ...

A Palestinian man prays at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque during Friday prayers before a protest celebrating the six Palestinian pr...

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2005 file photo, Zakaria Zubeidi, then West Bank leader of Palestinian militant group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades votes during the...

FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2004 file photo, then Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and front-runner in the upcoming presidential elections, is ca...

FILE - In this July 31, 200 file photo, Palestinian Zakaria Zubeidi, then leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militant group in the West Bank town...

FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2004 file photo, Zakaria Zubeidi, then leader in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank, is carried by supporters during...

FILE - In this April 2, 2005 file photo, Zakaria Zubeidi, center, then local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other militants march in the W...

Members of the group Choosing Life, that includes relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks, protest outside of Ofer Prison near Jerusalem, ...

Protesters chant anti Israel slogans and carry placards that read "six lions found the light at the end of the tunnel, freedom for our prisoners," dur...

A protester holds a spoon, which has become a symbol celebrating the six Palestinian prisoners who recently tunneled out of Gilboa Prison, in Umm el-F...

Palestinian protesters march into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Amid increased Israeli-Palestinian...

Israeli police stand guard at a checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Amid increased Israeli-Palestinian tension over a rec...

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Israeli security forces stand next to two Palestinian fugitives Zakaria Zubeidi, left, and Mohammed Aradeh, b...

Locals gather near Palestinian fugitive Zakaria Zubeidi's hideouts in Umm al-Ghanam, northern Israel, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Following Zubeidi's ar...

Locals look at Palestinian fugitive Zakaria Zubeidi's hideouts in Umm al-Ghanam, northern Israel, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Following Zubeidi's arrest...

CORRECTS NAME, Mahmoud Aradeh is surrounded by guards as they stand in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives...

Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards as they stand in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on...

Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...

Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...

Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the six Palestinians who escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week is surrounded by guards as they stand in a cour...

Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...

Yakub Kadari is surrounded by guards in a courtroom in Nazareth, Israel, after he and three other Palestinian fugitives were captured on Saturday, Sep...

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police on Saturday said they have arrested four of the six Palestinians who broke out of a maximum-security prison this week — including a famed militant leader whose exploits over the years have made him a well-known figure in Israel.

Late on Saturday, the four re-captured prisoners appeared separately in court where prosecutors are pushing terrorist attack charges against them following their escape.

The arrests moved Israel closer to closing an embarrassing episode that exposed deep flaws in its prison system and turned the fugitive prisoners into Palestinian heroes. Late on Friday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into Israel in an apparent sign of solidarity, drawing Israeli airstrikes in reprisal.

The four wanted men were caught in a pair of arrests in northern Israel.

Early on Saturday, police said they had caught two men, including Zakaria Zubeidi, hiding in a truck parking lot in the Arab town of Umm al-Ghanam.

The Israeli Haaretz news site, quoting an unidentified defense official, said Zubeidi and fellow fugitive Mohammed Aradeh had been hiding outdoors for some time. The source said the two escapees appeared to have received no help following their escape and had no planned route on where to go.

Zubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.

While he has been linked to attacks on Israelis, he also was well known for giving frequent media interviews and for a friendship he once had with an Israeli woman. Zubeidi over the years had received amnesty and taken college courses and was active in a West Bank theater movement before he was re-arrested in 2019 on suspicions of involvement in attacks.

Photos released by police showed Zubeidi, handcuffed and wearing a white head band, being led away by two police officers.

In a statement, police said that Israeli security forces, including the military, have been working “around the clock” to catch the fugitives.

“All of the forces were deployed at full strength, searched in open areas, collected every piece of information until they succeeded in solving the puzzle to locate these two fugitives," including Zubeidi, police said. The search for the final two prisoners was continuing.

Earlier, two other prisoners were arrested in Nazareth, an Arab city in northern Israel just west of Umm al-Ghanam.

A video circulating on social media showed Israeli police shackling one of the prisoners, Yakub Kadari, into the backseat of a police vehicle and asking him for his name. The man, wearing jeans and a green T-shirt, calmly identifies himself as Kadari and answers “yes” when asked whether he is one of the escapees. Kadari was serving two life sentences for attempted murder and bomb planting.

According to Israeli media reports, local residents in both towns had turned in the prisoners.

In a statement issued late Saturday, Israel's Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, praised the Israeli security forces for the arrest of the four fugitives, describing the search operation as “determined and persistent.”

“We have to maintain heightened readiness and continue until the mission is complete,” Bennett said.

In Gaza, Hamas’ armed wing pledged to include the six prisoners on the top of any future prisoner swap deal between the militant group and Israel.

“The heroes of the ‘freedom tunnel’ will come out with heads held high and the Qassam command has decided that there will be no exchange deal without freeing those heroes,” said the spokesman, Abu Obaida, using the name of Hamas' military wing.

Hamas is believed to be holding two Israeli civilians and the remains of two Israeli soldiers who were killed during the 50-day Gaza war between the two sides in 2014. There have been no serious negotiations on brokering a swap. In 2011, Israel retrieved a soldier who had been kidnapped and held for five years by Hamas in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

The six Palestinians tunneled out of the Gilboa prison on Monday, setting off a furious manhunt across Israel and in the West Bank.

For the Palestinians, the fugitives won praise for succeeding in freeing themselves from multiple life sentences. Fighting against Israel and taking part in attacks against the Israeli military or even civilians is a source of pride for many, and Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause.

In the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank, Palestinians had organized sit-ins and joyful gatherings to celebrate the prison break.

While Zubeidi was a member of the secular Fatah group, the others belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group, including four serving life sentences. All of the prisoners are from the nearby city of Jenin in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

As soon as the news about the capture of the two fugitives was confirmed Friday, a flurry of bitter posts expressing disappointment and shock filled Palestinian social media.

Israel said late Saturday that Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a rocket toward Israel that was intercepted by Israeli air defenses. The Israeli military said it responded with airstrikes on a series of Hamas targets in Gaza. Israel says it holds Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, responsible for all rocket fire emanating from the territory.

There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian Authority, but Abdeltaif al-Qanou, a spokesman for the Gaza-ruling Hamas movement, said despite the re-arrest, the prisoners have “scored a victory and harmed the prestige of the Israeli security system.”

The escape has exposed major flaws in Israel’s prison service and set off days of angry criticism and finger-pointing. The men escaped through a hole in the floor of their shared cell, tunneled through a hole outside the prison and according to media reports, escaped past a sleeping prison guard.

It has also increased tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

Earlier on Friday, Hamas had called for “a day of rage” to protest Israeli crackdown against imprisoned Palestinians, but the day passed without major confrontation. In Jerusalem, a Palestinian suspected attacker died shortly after being shot by Israeli police in the volatile Old City, where he had reportedly tried to stab officers. Police said one officer was lightly wounded in the leg.


Updated : 2021-09-23 14:08 GMT+08:00