Two Palestinian terrorists who escaped from a maximum-security Israeli jail this week were apprehended on Friday on a biblical hilltop in Israel’s northern city of Nazareth, prompting rocket fire from Gaza.
The other four escapees remained at large, despite a massive manhunt by Israeli forces across northern Israel, including the Arab city of Nazareth, and the occupied West Bank.
The six escapees – five of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad militant group and one with the mainstream Fatah party – broke free early on Monday by tunnelling through a hole adjacent to their cell’s toilet.
The two men captured on Mount Precipice were Islamic Jihad members, police said. Officers were tipped off by Nazareth residents who the two men had asked for food, Israeli media reported.
Video on social media showed Israeli officers putting two men into the back of separate police vehicles. The two men did not resist arrest, a police spokeswoman said.
Hours after the two men’s capture, militants in the Gaza Strip – who fought a deadly conflict with Israel in May – launched a rocket towards Israel which was intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system, the Israeli military said. There were no reports of damage or casualties.
Palestinian factions said there would be repercussions for the two men’s capture.
“We hold Israel responsible for the lives of the two liberated prisoners who were arrested,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said.
The six escapees have either been convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel has vowed to capture all of the men, and officials say they will investigate any lapses that allowed their escape.
Protests in support of the prisoners have taken place across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, with Palestinians hailing them as heroes in their fight for statehood in land Israel took in the 1967 Middle East conflict.
The facility from which the guys fled is located approximately 4 kilometres (2 miles) from Israel’s border with the occupied West Bank and is one of the most secure in Israel.
Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin, is among those who have escaped. In 2019, Israel re-arrested Zubeidi for his claimed involvement in additional shooting attacks.