Israel says it captured the last two Palestinian prisoners who escaped from a maximum-security prison more than 10 days ago.
The jailbreak embarrassed Israel’s security establishment but delighted Palestinians who see members of armed groups jailed by Israel as heroes in the struggle for statehood in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
The men, the last of the six who escaped Gilboa prison on September 6, were found in the eastern district of Jenin city, the police announced on Twitter on Sunday.
The army said the men surrendered “after being surrounded by security forces” acting on intelligence. Palestinians in Jenin clashed with Israeli troops as they raided the city early on Sunday, residents said.
The Israeli military said clashes broke out as the forces withdrew, with residents hurling rocks and explosives at troops who responded with live fire.
Israeli police identified the men as Ayham Nayef Kamamji and Munadel Yacoub Infaat. Kamamji, 35, was arrested in 2006 and is serving a life sentence, and Infeiat, 26, was arrested in 2019, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
“The two saboteurs surrendered, Nayef Kamamji and Munadel Yacoub Infaat, after the army and police surrounded the house they hid inside in Jenin,” Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said.
Fouad Kamamji, Ayham’s father, told The Associated Press his son called him when Israeli troops surrounded the house and said he will surrender “in order not to endanger the house owners”.
The six Palestinians broke out of the maximum-security Israeli prison by digging a tunnel under a sink in their cell, using spoons, plates and even the handle of a kettle. Two were recaptured on September 10, and two more the next day.
Their lawyers say the men began work on the tunnel last December.
The bold escape dominated newscasts for days and sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service.
Palestinians have protested in support of the men across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Members of Israel’s Arab minority, who often identify as Palestinians, have also demonstrated in support of the men, with more protests planned for later Sunday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised the various Israeli security forces that worked to recapture the men for “an impressive, sophisticated and quick operation”.
“What has broken down — it is possible to rectify,” Bennett said.