Just under 2 weeks after 6 dangerous Palestinian inmates managed to tunnel out of Israel’s maximum-security Gilboa Prison, all have safely been returned behind bars.
By Erin Viner
The last 2 of the escaped prisoners, Iham Kamamji and Monadal Infiat, were caught by Israeli forces in a pre-dawn raid yesterday on the Palestinian Authority city of Jenin in the northern West Bank. Israeli military sources said that both inmates, who are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group, surrendered after being surrounded.
All of the felons are serving life terms for committing deadly terrorist offenses against Israelis. The other 4 were captured in pairs a week ago near the Arab city of Nazareth in northern Israel.
Jenin residents clashed with Israeli troops during the recovery mission, including the shooting of live fire, hurling of explosives and rocks at troops as they exited the city.
2 other Palestinians were arrested for assisting the prisoners, said the Israeli military in a statement. All 4 were transferred for questioning.
“It is done,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “All six terrorists have been recaptured – and will be returned to prison – in an impressive, sophisticated and quick operation by the ISA, the Israel Police and the IDF,” he said, hailing the relentless efforts to capture the remaining fugitives by “security forces that worked day and night, including over Shabbat and holidays, to bring the event to a close.”
Upon conclusion of the recovery mission in Jenin, Prime Minister Bennett held consultations Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Israel Security Agency (ISA, Shin Bet) Director Nadav Argaman, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov “Kobi” Shabtai, the ISA Director of Operations, GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fox, and the commander of the Israel Police Special Anti-Terror Unit.
After thanking each personally for their professional work in recapturing the terrorists, Bennett said, “The event started with a major mishap but you mobilized with joint forces until the mission was completed when all six terrorists were returned to prison.”
Pertaining to alleged lapses at the Gilboa Prison that failed to prevent the 6 September escape, Bennett commented, “What has broken down – it is possible to rectify.”
The Israeli leader then wished the heads of the security services a happy and quiet celebration of the Sukkot holiday, which begins at sundown this evening.
During a ceremony in honor of IDF soldiers who fell in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the terrorists’ arrests demonstrated “the importance and intelligence superiority of our forces on the ground.” He also commended all who “have worked and continue to work effectively and professionally, while having maintained resilience and a ‘fighting spirit’ over the last few weeks.”
“Israel does not want to disrupt the daily routine of millions of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and strives to continue taking steps that will improve and strengthen their economy, health and security,” stressed Israel’s top defense chief, adding, “In Gaza, too, we strive to enable two million civilians to maintain their routine lives. At the same time and first and foremost, we are prepared to maintain the security of Israel’s citizens.”
“If there are terrorist organizations that rear their heads and act on the expense of Palestinian civilians – we will work hard to thwart and harm the terrorists and their affiliates,” underscored Minister Gantz.
While speaking at the same Yom Kippur War memorial ceremony, Israeli President Isaac Herzog also took the opportunity to thank Israel’s security forces for their “daring, determination, and creativity” in capturing the escaped terrorists.
There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security in the territory.
The escape that embarrassed Israel’s security establishment had delighted Palestinians.
The Islamist Hamas terror group that rules Gaza had demanded all Palestinians demonstrate a number of so-called ‘Days of Rage’ upon the recapture of the first 4 fugitives. Mass riots in solidarity with the prisoners erupted across the West Bank and on the eastern mostly-Arab sector of Jerusalem, while there has been a surge in terrorist attacks against Israelis.
After news that all 6 prisoners have been caught, the PIJ threatened more violence to come.
“We will surprise the enemy anytime and anywhere,” vowed the terror group’s leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah.