spectacular escape of a figure of the Palestinian struggle

Now Zakaria Zubeidi is once again “public enemy number one” in Israel. But for how long ? This former Palestinian fighter, who distinguished himself during the second intifada (2000-2005) in Jenin, the large rebel city in the north of the occupied West Bank, managed a spectacular escape, on the night of Sunday to Monday, September 6.

Zubeidi rushed into a tunnel dug with five fellow detainees to flee the Gilboa high security station, located about fifteen kilometers from his hometown, on the other side of the Israeli wall that encloses the territories. Their escape sparked a vast manhunt in the country as well as in the West Bank, and sparked a wave of pride among Palestinians.

The fugitives chose the Jewish New Year’s Eve to carry out their plan, taking advantage of a probable release from their custody. Their tunnel, opened in a toilet, led to an empty space located under their common cell. From there, they were able to dig through twenty meters of earth to the outside. The exit was discovered near the enclosure, hidden under a heap of grass. A car would have been waiting for them nearby. It was local peasants who sounded the alarm around three in the morning.

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All these men are from Jenin. Five are second-rand members of the Islamic Jihad, an armed Islamist group, a Hamas satellite mainly active in the Gaza Strip. Most were serving life sentences for terrorist acts. One of them, Iham Kamamji, was arrested in 2006 and convicted of kidnapping and murdering an 18-year-old boy, Eliyahu Asheri, near the settlement of Ofra, in the West Bank. That they were held so close to their home region, where they could benefit from assistance, has since drawn criticism from unnamed officials in the press.

An inmate of a special kind

Zakaria Zubeidi, in December 2004, in Jenin (West Bank).

Among them, Zakaria Zubeidi, 45, appears of a different caliber. He is a “hero” with a faded aura, a “Peace activist” self-proclaimed with the reputation of bandit, a maverick, a “Special case”, notes Qadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian prisoners’ club. It had been almost fifteen years since Mr. Zubeidi had not made the front page. This kid from the city’s refugee camp, who lost his mother and a brother during the second intifada, had become, in 2002 by a stroke of luck, the local leader of the Al-Aqsa martyrs brigades, the armed wing. of Fatah. Accused of having ordered an attack against a local Likud, the ruling party, in 2002 in Israel, he escaped several assassination attempts during the 2000s.

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