Ayman Odeh: “I have a dream, a Palestinian state will be established next to Israel”

    Lawmakers from the predominantly Arab Joint List party spoke in support of the six escaped Palestinian security prisoners, after four of them were captured over the weekend.

    The six were all jailed for terror-related offenses. Some of them were accused or found guilty of murders. In party members’ statements, the escapees were generally characterized as freedom fighters.

    “If six prisoners managed to break through the narrow and crowded prison, then millions of the Palestinian people can end the occupation — so that the people will be released and the prisoners will be released,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh wrote in a Facebook post.

    “If in the past the issue of prisoners went down and up in order of priority, today it is strongly present,” Odeh added.

    He later told Channel 12 news: “I have a dream [the prisoners] will all be released, and a Palestinian state will be established next to Israel. My dream is that there will be no jails or occupation.”

    Five days into a national manhunt for six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from a high-security jail in northern Israel, police captured two of the fugitives in Nazareth Friday night.

    Hours later, two others — including notorious terror commander Zakaria Zubeidi — were apprehended in the nearby town of Shibli–Umm al-Ghanam.

    Following the first arrests, Joint List MK Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the party, claimed the prisoners would be tortured in revenge for them escaping.

    Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

    “Tonight the two captured fugitives will be severely tortured, only to avenge their success in deceiving the ‘masters.’ This is how colonialism has always acted,”  he tweeted, adding that “the end to violence is by the elimination of the occupation! For the benefit of us all!”

    Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi posted an image of a dove to his Instagram story a number of hours after the escape on Monday, with the caption: “Live as a free man or die as an upright tree.”

    Another Joint List MK, Aida Touma-Suleiman, called during the week to release all prisoners that had been incarcerated for “opposition to the occupation.”

    “The only guarantee for security and stability is an end to the occupation and recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

    Police take Zakaria Zubeidi to a patrol car after he was captured in northern Israel after escaping from prison with other security prisoners, on September 11, 2021. (Israel Police)

    The four escapees were located with the help of Arab Israelis. Police sources told Walla news that dozens of Arabs phoned in sightings of the fugitives.

    In Nazareth on Friday evening, police caught convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists Yaquob Qadiri and Mahmoud al-Arida, the latter of whom was reported to have masterminded the jailbreak.

    Prior to their arrests, the two requested food from residents of Nazareth, but locals rejected their request and alerted police, according to Hebrew media.

    The next two to be captured were Zubeidi and Mohammed al-Arida, the reported mastermind’s younger brother. The two were caught early Saturday morning.

    According to Haaretz, the two were earlier sighted out in the open by a dune buggy driver from a nearby village, and requested a ride. He refused and later reported them to the police. Military trackers then found their footprints in the dirt, as well as discarded cigarettes and a drink can.

    Before the escape, Zubeidi, a commander in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, was imprisoned while on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder.

    Mohammed al-Arida was arrested in 2002 on terror offenses and sentenced to life in prison while his brother, Mahmoud al-Arida, considered a senior Islamic Jihad member, was jailed for life for terrorist activity, including attacks in which soldiers were killed.

    Two of the six inmates who escaped Gilboa prison, Yaquob Qadiri (left) and Mahmoud al-Arida, seen after being recaptured in the northern town of Nazareth, on September 10, 2021. (Israel Police)

    Qadiri was also serving life terms for acts of terrorism, including the murder of an Israeli in 2004. Both he and Mahmoud al-Arida were reportedly involved in a 2014 attempt to break out of Gilboa.

    The two prisoners still on the run are Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, who, like the other fugitives, are from the area around the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

    Kamamji was serving a life sentence at the time of the escape for killing an 18-year-old Israeli in 2006, a murder he reportedly expressed pride in.

    Nafayat has not been charged with a crime other than being a member of the Islamic Jihad, and was being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows it to imprison suspects without filing charges.

    The six escaped from Gilboa Prison in the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, making their way out through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space underneath the prison.

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