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Friday, January 21, 2022

‘A blow to the captors’: Social media users react to heroic Palestinian ‘prison break’ victory 


Much of the world praised Palestinian ‘heroes’ who managed to escape from an Israeli prison this week. 

Six Palestinians who broke out of an Israeli prison on Monday have been hailed as heroes worldwide for outwitting the high-security facility.

The detainees at Gilboa prison dug a tunnel with a spoon underneath a cell toilet that allowed them to emerge outside of the gated walls where they then received outside assistance.

News of the courageous escape soon made the rounds on social media, including in Qatar where the public hailed the prisoners and celebrated the victory.

Images that showed the moments in which dumbfounded Israeli security guards were seen inspecting the small hall sparked jokes online, with many taking to social media to mock the forces.

Al Jazeera’s reporter Salma Al Jamal praised the escape saying: “when freedom is born from the depths of earth through will and faith.”

Qatari media personality Elham Bader celebrated the brazen escape in a tweet saying: “it has not previously happened that happiness filled the hearts of people in different parts of the world for the success of an escape mission of any detainee in prison, except when six innocent people from Gilboa prison did so”.

“How do you feel now that the stature of your captor has been broken?” she said addressing “Arab zionists”.

Another prominent media figure, Eman Ayad, an anchor at Al Jazeera Arabic, described the escape as a “Hollywood movie” and referred to the popular American serial drama series “Prison Break.”

“The world is witnessing today the great escape, Prison Break, a living reality, the heroes of which are Palestinians who wanted to live life so they broke their chains and fate responded in their favour,” she tweeted on Monday.

Other Twitter users also called for a sixth season of “Prison Break” that would be based on the Palestinian edition.

How did it happen? 

According to Al Jazeera, a driver passing by the area at 1:49am saw a number of people running across the plains and reported it to the police, triggering a search for the prisoners.

Israeli authorities deployed police, soldiers, and agents from the internal security agency Shin Bet in an effort to find the escaped prisoners, officials said. 

The occupation forces surrounded the Gilboa area with checkpoints and sniffer dogs. It said that soldiers were also “prepared and deployed” in the occupied West Bank as part of the search mission. 

The Gilboa prison is designated as a high-security facility, which suggests such breakouts are extremely difficult and rare.

“Overnight, we received a number of reports about suspicious figures in agricultural fields and from the prison service, which discovered very quickly that prisoners were missing from their cells and that six escaped,” police spokesman Eli Levy told Israeli Kan Radio.

Al Jazeera’s Walid al-Omari, a reporter in Ramallah, said Israeli authorities discovered the prisoners’ escape at around 3:30am.

He said that the search operation also involved helicopters in towns and villages near the northern area of the West Bank, as well as in an area near the Jordanian borders. 

“The prisoners included Zakariye Zubeidi, 46, a former Fatah party leader in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, as well as five Palestinian Islamic Jihad members serving life sentences for involvement in attacks on Israelis during the Palestinian Intifada – or uprising – in the early 2000s,” according to Al Jazeera. 

The other five on the run are Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, 26, Yaqoub Qassem, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 46. 

Speaking to al Jazeera, Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said the brave escape was a victory against the Israeli security forces.

“We are happy with this escape. We have called a lot for the necessity of liberating all Palestinian prisoners. If the prisoners can free themselves, this is a great thing,” Fares, who spent 18 years in prison, told Al Jazeera.

Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip, described the escape as a “real defeat” for the occupation security system.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawood Shehab also described it as a “heroic act” that was a “severe blow” to the Israeli occupation forces and its entire “security apparatus.”

“This is a long and open struggle … The occupation must understand the lesson well, our people will never surrender,” Shehab said in a statement carried by the Palestinian news agency Maan.

“[Israel’s] terrorism will not succeed in breaking the will of our people,” he added.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the breakout is “a serious incident” and he was following-up with the search.

Although such breakouts are rare, this was certainly not the first Palestinian “prison break.”

In 1996, two Palestinian inmates broke out from Kfar Yona prison through an 11-meter tunnel, which marked the first Palestinian prisoner escape through a tunnel.

Israeli forces hold some 4,750 Palestinians across dozens of prisons in the occupied territories. This number includes 42 females, 200 children, and 550 administrative detainees, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

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