Last two escapees arrested in Jenin, ending manhunt

The last two remaining prisoners who escaped from Gilboa prison earlier this month, Munadil Nafayat and Iham Kahamji, were arrested by Israeli forces in Jenin on Saturday evening, ending a manhunt of nearly two. weeks.

The arrest was carried out by the IDF, the Shin Bet and special police forces based on intelligence from the Shin Bet.

The operation was supervised by the brigadier-general. Yaniv Alaluf, the head of the IDF’s Judea-Samaria division, which is responsible for the West Bank, and Colonel Arik Moyal.

“The Yamam, Shin Bet and Haruv Reconnaissance Unit entered the city of Jenin, cordoned off and surrounded the house, including gunfire around the building in which the fleeing terrorists were hiding. They came out unarmed and without resistance, ”the IDF said in a statement, adding that“ the two terrorists were captured alive and handed over for questioning by the security forces ”.

In order to avoid a large-scale confrontation with the Palestinians, a large number of security forces entered different parts of the city as a distraction.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups had warned that they would prevent the capture of the two men.

“The two terrorists surrendered and left without opening fire. The arrest went smoothly, ”said Lt. Col. Alon Hanoni, deputy commander of the IDF Menashe regional command, which is responsible for the Jenin region after the operation.

Two Palestinians who assisted the two prisoners were also arrested by Israeli forces.

As the security forces left the city, clashes broke out with Palestinians in several locations, with stones and explosives being thrown and gunfire directed at Israeli forces. Three Palestinians were moderately injured in the clashes, according to reports. No injuries were reported among Israeli forces.

Fouad Kahamji, Iham’s father, told on Saturday night that Iham called him before the arrest and told him that he was trapped in a house with civilians and that he was would pay for their safety.

Four of the six prisoners who escaped from Gilboa prison, Zakaria Zubeidi, Mahmoud Ardah, Mohammed Qadri and Mohammed Ardah, were captured by security forces in and around Nazareth last weekend.

Israeli security forces arrest the last two escaped prisoners in Jenin. (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the capture of the two prisoners on Sunday morning, declaring “it’s over. The six terrorists have been captured and will return to prison, in an impressive, sophisticated and swift operation by the Shin Bet, police and the IDF. “

Bennett thanked the security forces for working tirelessly day and night to capture the escaped prisoners, adding that “what went wrong can be fixed”.

The Prime Minister then met with Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Shin Bet Chief Nadav Agarman, IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General. Aviv Kohavi, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Head of Central Command, Major General. Yehuda Fuchs and other senior officials following the operation and thanked them for their work.

“The incident started with a major incident, but you mobilized jointly until the end of the mission, when the six terrorists returned to prison,” he said.

Speaking at a ceremony honoring those who fell in the Yom Kippur War, Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked the security forces for their “precise and professional execution” of the arrests.

“This evening, we understood the importance of the forces on the ground and the superiority of the intelligence with the operation of arrest of the terrorists who escaped from the prison of Gilboa by Tsahal, the Shin Bet and the YAMAM”, a he declared. “Israel does not want to disrupt the daily routine of millions of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and even strives to pursue measures that will improve and strengthen their economy, health and personal security,” Gantz continued, adding that security nonetheless of Israeli citizens is paramount.

“If there are terrorist organizations trying to lift their heads off Palestinian civilians, we will act vigorously against them and strike at the terrorists and those who send them.

After the arrest of the two men, Shabtai said that policemen from the northern district “mobilized many forces, as well as other security organizations, in a large deployment of thousands of police, border police and volunteers, as part of an intelligence, investigative and operational hunt. and thanks to exceptional cooperation between all organizations, the police, the Shin Bet and the Israeli army, we have managed to come full circle together.

“Since their escape, the Israel Police, led by the Northern Police District, have mobilized numerous forces, as well as other security organizations, in a large deployment of thousands of police, border police and volunteers, in an intelligence, investigation and operational service. hunt and thanks to the exceptional cooperation between all the organizations, the police, the Shin Bet and the IDF, we have succeeded in closing the circle together, ”said Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai after their arrest.

Shabtai explained that security services discovered over time that the two were in Jenin. The security forces prepared for several days for the operation which took place on Saturday evening after receiving the information they expected.

“The entire security establishment and we, the officers of the Israel Police Force, will continue to act resolutely and aggressively for the safety of the citizens of Israel,” Shabtai said.

Palestinian gunmen in Jenin had said over the weekend that they were ready to thwart any attempt by the IDF to enter the city or its refugee camp in search of two security prisoners who escaped from the prison. Gilboa.

The gunmen said they had formed a “joint operations room” made up of representatives of various Palestinian factions to repel a possible “invasion” by the IDF.

Palestinian sources said the gunmen belonged to several armed groups affiliated with Fatah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The sources claimed that the IDF was preparing to launch a major offensive in the camp following a series of gunfire.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassam also responded to the arrests on Sunday morning, saying: “We salute and pay great tribute to the heroes of the Freedom Tunnel in Gilboa Prison, who have demonstrated the Palestinians’ ability to act in resistance. in all circumstances and in all tools. “

Qassam stressed that despite the recovery of the six escaped prisoners, “this operation will remain irrefutable proof of the fragility and weakness of the Zionist security system and its inability to resist the will of the Palestinian fighter.”

The Hamas spokesman added that the movement’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, had promised to include the six prisoners included in any future prisoner exchange deal and that the release of Palestinian prisoners would remain a “priority. absolute ”for Palestinian factions.

“The arrests will not erase the mark left by the six escaped prisoners,” the PIJ said in response to the arrests.

We place responsibility for the lives of the prisoners who were captured and the rest of the security prisoners on Israel. We call on the military branches to stay on high alert to protect the prisoners as the struggle is ongoing.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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