Photo: Flash90

Palestinians riot in Israeli prisons

Palestinian Islamic Jihad security prisoners clashed with guards and set fire to their cells at several Israeli prisons last night as part of a solidarity campaign with 6 other inmates who escaped custody on Monday.

By Erin Viner

The violence erupted as the Israel Prison Service (IPS) was implementing precautionary measure prisons by relocating Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) inmates from their wards at the southern Ketziot and Ramon facilities since five out of six escapees from the northern Gilboa Prison are identified as members of the terror group.

Palestinian news sites today published a recording purportedly of a PIJ inmate at Ketziot, who said, “All IPS units have gathered because they are emptying all the rooms of Islamic Jihad and scattering the prisoners between the factions. We do not agree with this and have updated the IPS and the factions that if they take us out of the rooms, we will burn them. At every opportunity we have we will burn the rooms. It is a decision of the top leadership and all Islamic Jihad members. But they will not succeed. Islamic Jihad is built, it works in blood. It is us.”

An umbrella group claiming to represent prisoners from all Palestinian factions called on inmates to resist being relocated to other facilities and to ignite fires in their cells if attempts were made to move them by force, threatening, “Any wing of Islamic Jihad that the IPS tries to evacuate will go up in flames.” The group also threatened to launch a widespread hunger strike.

The clashes reportedly spread to other prisons where the IPS was confronted with other resistance from prisoners.

The Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza and other Palestinian terror factions issued a joint statement threatening Israel if the IPS continued efforts to relocate the inmates.

“What is happening in prisons is an unforgivable crime, and Israel will be held responsible for the consequences,” said the PIJ in a separate statement.

Along with Hamas, PIJ also demanded that “Palestinians to take to the streets and points of friction and ignite clashes.”

Responding to that call, widespread riots erupted across the West Bank and in Jerusalem.

Arab demonstrators clashed with Israeli security forces at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, while a city bus also came under a rock attack by other protestors near the Nablus Gate. Clashes also broke out in the Arab neighborhood of Issawiya in the capital just east of the Hebrew University.

Other violence erupted in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Anabta, Nablus, Jenin and Tubas, as hundreds of Palestinians gathered at nightfall to celebrate the prison beak by fighting with Israeli soldiers. Shots were fired at Israeli forces in Ramallah and in the Judea and Samaria Square, but there were no reported injuries.

“We came out in solidarity with our prisoners in the occupier’s jails,” Jihad Abu Adi, 25, told Reuters as protesters nearby set tires ablaze. “It’s the least we could do for our heroic prisoners.”

Security forces use crowd dispersal means to quell the riots. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 60 people were injured by tear gas during the violent protests near Nablus.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened special consultations with defense and security chiefs last night. “The events have the potential to impact numerous fronts,” his spokesman later said in a statement, while stressing that, “Israel is prepared for any scenario.”

A shooting in the Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat this morning left one person dead and a second seriously injured, although it is unknown at this time whether there is any connection to ongoing events.

Meanwhile, the intense manhunt to capture the 6 terrorists who escaped through a hole in the floor of a Gilboa Prison cell entered its fourth day.

“We will get our hands on the fleeing terrorists, we will correct the failures that might have led to the escape – and if we find professional negligence, we will take care of that as well,” vowed Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev this morning. Bar-Lev previously voiced concern  that the Palestinian fugitives may be planning another terrorist attack against Israeli citizens.

All of the escaped prisoners were serving life sentences for murderous attacks on Israelis. One was identified as Zakariya Zubeidi (45), a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The other 5 jailbreakers, all members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Iranian-proxy terror group, have been identified as Iham Kamamji (35), Monadal Infiat (26), Yakub Kadari (49) and brothers Mahmoud (46) and Mohammed Aradeh (39).

Hundreds of military and additional reinforcement forces have been deployed in the search, protect Jewish settlements in the area, as well as prevent the fugitives from fleeing the country. The IDF, IPS , police, Israel Security Agency (also referred to as the ISA, General Security Service, or by its Hebrew acronym, the Shin Bet) and other elite units are all involved in the operation, which includes the first time activation of unspecified surveillance and intelligence capabilities featuring advanced technologies.

Details of the prison break investigation are under an Israeli court-issued gag order, but it is known that IPS personnel are undergoing questioning by Lahav 433’s Unit of International Crime Investigations to establish whether the terrorists were given either external or internal assistance.

According to local media, 3 men were arrested in the northern Israel Arab village of Na’ura yesterday on suspicion of providing assistance and food to the escapees, although security forces declined to confirm the report.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that that, “The defense establishment and the IDF, together with the GSS, the police and all parties, will continue their efforts to get their hands on the prisoners, along with maintaining security on all fronts.” He also said that a network of checkpoint closures between Israel and the West Bank are expected to extend into the weekend. Exceptions for humanitarian, medical and other urgent cases will be subject to the approval of the Coordinator of Government Operations in the Territories (COGAT).