Palestinians vow to fight Israeli forces if they raid Jenin camp

Jenin Refugee Camp

Members of the Palestinian Is-lamic Jihad group said they will fight Israeli forces if they enter the Jenin refugee camp in search of six Palestinian pris-oners who escaped from a high-security Israeli prison.

Early on Wednesday, Israeli soldiers with dogs scoured gaps in Israel’s separation wall near the Palestinian town of Yaabad near Jenin, while re-connaissance aircraft flew above.

It is unclear where the six Pal-estinians are hiding. The men were believed to have been headed for Jenin, where their families are based, and where the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority wields lit-tle control.

Hundreds of Israeli security forces and intelligence agents on Wednesday continued the search for the six Palestinian prisoners who tunnelled out of Gilboa jail on Monday.

Meanwhile, dozens of check-points were erected between the West Bank and Israel, as Israeli authorities feared armed Palestinians might at-tack Israeli settlers in the oc-cupied West Bank or within Is-rael.

Jamal Zubeidi, 65, the uncle of one of the prisoners, said the family expected Israeli soldiers to invade the camp at any time.

“We don’t know when they will come but we expect them any time and we are prepared,” Zubeidi told Al Jazeera. “Our family has suffered from the Israeli occupation for many years.”

The escapees included Za-kariya Zubeidi, 46, a former Fatah party leader in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, as well as five Palestin-ian Islamic Jihad members.

Islamic Jihad also warned Is-rael against harming the six men.Despite the tense atmosphere at the Jenin refugee camp, many young men cheered the escape of the six prisoners, as well as the possibility of stand-ing up to Israeli forces if they enter the camp.

“The guys are not scared. They are fighting for their rights,” Noor Saadi, 27, who previously spent two years in an Israeli jail, told Al Jazeera.

Since the stunning prisoner escape, the Israel Prison Ser-vice has broken up groups of Islamic Jihad members in vari-ous prisons.

It also evacuated 90 Palestin-ian prisoners out of a total of 360 held in Gilboa, as the facil-ity undergoes an intensive in-spection.

Israel said apprehending the six men was a matter of ur-gency, not only to prevent po-tential attacks, but also be-cause their escape embold-ened gunmen from various factions to confront the Israeli militarily.

Since the escape, Israeli sol-diers have raided several vil-lages near Jenin, confiscating film from surveillance cameras and checking the identities of car occupants. Israeli soldiers have also increased their pres-ence in public places in Israel.

Three Palestinians from the vil-lage of Noura in northern Is-rael were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of aiding the pris-oners in their escape.

According to Israel, one of the escapees was captured by sur-veillance cameras in the town’s mosque.

Al Jazeera witnessed Israeli troops invading the village of Arrabunah, southwest of Jenin, on Tuesday night where sol-diers confiscated footage from surveillance cameras before groups of young Palestinians threw stones at them. Shortly afterwards, the soldiers with-drew.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli sol-diers positioned themselves on the hills overlooking the village of Deir Ghazzalah, which lies near the Israeli separation wall between the northern West Bank and Israel. A surveillance drone hovered over the village at night.—AFP

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