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Israeli police catch two of six Palestinian jail escapees

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September 10, 2021

By Rami Ayyub

NAZARETH, Israel (Reuters) -Two Palestinian militants who were among six who broke out of a maximum security Israeli jail this week were caught on Friday on a biblical hilltop in Israel’s northern city of Nazareth, police said.

The other four escapees were still at large amid a massive manhunt by Israeli forces across northern Israel, where the Arab city of Nazareth sits, 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.

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The two men captured on Mount Precipice were Islamic Jihad members, and police were tipped off by Nazareth residents who the two men had asked for food, Israeli media reported. Police did not provide their identities.

Video on social media showed Israeli officers putting two men into the back of separate police vehicles. The two men did not appear to resist arrest.

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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.

Palestinians have protested in support of the men across the West Bank in East Jerusalem, seeing them as heroes in their struggle for statehood in territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The facility the men escaped from, about 4 km (2 miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, is one of the highest-security jails in Israel.

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The escapees include Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin who once received Israeli amnesty. Zubeidi was rearrested by Israel in 2019 after his alleged involvement in new shooting attacks.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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