Ex-prisoner praises Palestinian escapees from Israeli jail

Ex-prisoner praises Palestinian escapees from Israeli jail
A guard is seen at an observation tower in Gilboa Prison from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, northern Israel, Sept. 9, 2021. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 09 September 2021

Ex-prisoner praises Palestinian escapees from Israeli jail

Ex-prisoner praises Palestinian escapees from Israeli jail
  • Hilal Jaradat was arrested in 1985 over the killing of three Israeli soldiers and sentenced to 99 years in prison when he was 19
  • Jaradat was in Gilboa for several years, from where five members of Islamic Jihad and one member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council escaped through a tunnel on Sept. 6

GAZA CITY: A former inmate of Israel’s Gilboa Prison has described the recent escape of six Palestinian prisoners as “miraculous.”

Hilal Jaradat, who had been involved in a previous escape attempt from the jail, said prisoners called Gilboa the “Israeli Guantanamo” because of its high walls with barbed wire and a heavy deployment of guards, towers and surveillance cameras that monitor every movement.

Jaradat was arrested in 1985 over the killing of three Israeli soldiers and sentenced to 99 years in prison when he was 19. He spent 27 years in Israeli imprisonment and was deported to Gaza following a prisoner exchange in 2011 between Hamas and Israel.

He was in Gilboa for several years, from where five members of Islamic Jihad and one member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council escaped through a tunnel on Sept. 6.

Jaradat was part of a group that planned their escape from the prison through a tunnel in 1998. Some prisoners got away before the guards discovered the tunnel.

He said it requires great planning and a lot of patience to penetrate the fortifications and the human and technical monitoring system.

Jaradat said the inmates at Gilboa are not given freedom even inside the prison as Israel considers them the most dangerous: They are accused of being behind the killings of Israelis.

He told Arab News that the complex procedures are aimed at “breaking the prisoners’ will,” but “many prisoners do not stop thinking about extracting their freedom by every possible means.”

Jaradat said he and his cellmates, all of them with long sentences, planned their escape through a tunnel extending more than 20 meters, which they dug using spoons and pieces of iron and wood that they extracted from their beds.

“Behind a sink, there was an abandoned toilet with a door permanently closed by heavy welding. We were able to open it with the help of a Druze prisoner. Two of our colleagues took care of the process of disposing of the sand by throwing it into the sewage system. Then we closed the door, removing any traces of activity. The process was repeated daily.” Jaradat said.

Later, he and his companions dug a tunnel directly to the toilet to dispose of the sand more easily.

They faced many obstacles, which they managed to overcome using materials available in the prison. They made a mixture of toothpaste and medicines as a substitute for cement to fix back the floor tiles every night so that the operation is not exposed in the event of a search.

It took 77 days to dig a tunnel 25 meters long and 2.5 meters deep, which 22 prisoners were supposed to use to escape.

However, a simple mistake by one prisoner, who forgot to put “a piece of cardboard to cover the opening of the tunnel” after his exit, led to its exposure.

Jaradat said that the prison department’s reaction was violent. “A large number of soldiers stormed the cells and assaulted the prisoners, and they imposed isolation and deprivation of visitation.”

Jaradat added: “The prison administration was shocked when it discovered the method of digging the tunnel, and how we got rid of about 17 tons of sand. The soldiers found it about five kilometers away from the prison and quantities of it were deposited inside the sewage pipes.”

About 5,000 prisoners, including dozens of women, children and the sick, are currently in the Israeli prisons, and hundreds of them are serving prison sentences for many years.

According to institutions specializing in prisoners’ affairs, about 100 Palestinian prisoners are classified by Israel as “red list” prisoners for having attempted an escape. Israel imposes heavy penalties on these prisoners.


Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO
Updated 6 min 49 sec ago

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO

Vaccine coverage below 10 percent in seven eastern Mediterranean nations — WHO
  • Low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received only 0.6% of the world's vaccines
  • "The longer that these inequities persist, the greater the chance of more variants,” said WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean

CAIRO: An official at the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office said on Wednesday seven countries in the region have not yet reached a threshold of 10 percent vaccination coverage.
These countries represent a high-risk setting for the emergence of further variants, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said at a news briefing in Cairo.
Low-income countries, mostly in Africa, have received only 0.6 percent of the world’s vaccines, while G20 countries have received more than 80 percent, Al-Mandhari said.
“The longer that these inequities persist, the greater the chance of more variants,” said Al-Mandhari. “Indeed, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
So far, 24 countries may have reported cases of the new Omicron variant, said Abdinasir Abubakr, infection hazards prevention manager for the region.
Early Omicron cases suggest mild symptoms, added Richard Brennen, WHO regional emergency director in the region.
In terms of the response to the variant, he warned of complacency and COVID-19 fatigue and encouraged social-distancing measures.
However, he said social and travel curbs require risk assessment before implementation.
“While we understand that some countries locked down international travel, this has to be done on evidence and strong analysis,” said Brennen.
As of Nov. 29, over 16.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 309,500 deaths were reported across the Eastern Mediterranean region.


Iran starts enriching with advanced machines at Fordow during deal talks

Iran starts enriching with advanced machines at Fordow during deal talks
Updated 4 sec ago

Iran starts enriching with advanced machines at Fordow during deal talks

Iran starts enriching with advanced machines at Fordow during deal talks

VIENNA: Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow facility buried inside a mountain, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday, a move likely to raise tensions at talks on Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified on Tuesday that Iran fed uranium hexafluoride feedstock enriched to up to 5 percent into a cascade, or cluster, of 166 IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow to enrich it further to up to 20 percent, the IAEA said in a statement. An IAEA report last month said Iran was operating 166 IR-6 machines there without keeping the enriched product.


Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens
Updated 46 min 27 sec ago

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens

Egypt removes access to government services for unvaccinated citizens
  • The move is the latest in a slew of preventive measures introduced by Egypt to contain the spread of COVID-19
  • Once vaccinated, citizens will be able to get a vaccination certificate that will allow them to enter government facilities

CAIRO: Egyptian citizens who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will from Wednesday be denied access to all government services and buildings unless they can provide evidence of a negative PCR test.

The decision was taken by the Supreme Committee for Coronavirus Crisis Management, which said the rule would apply to the provision of government services in all governorates and ministries.

The Ministry of Local Development instructed governors to implement the committee’s decision and refuse entry to government departments for anyone who is unable to provide evidence that they have been fully vaccinated or submit a negative PCR test result.

The move is the latest in a slew of preventive measures introduced by Egypt to contain the spread of COVID-19 in places of work and study.

The Ministry of Health and Population said it had made vaccines available to all citizens and that they should get vaccinated to avoid being disadvantaged by the new ruling.

It added that people who had not yet had their jabs should visit one of the many vaccination facilities located at medical centers, subway and railway stations, or the mobile units that travel throughout villages and towns.

Once vaccinated, citizens will be able to get a vaccination certificate that will allow them to enter government facilities, the health ministry said.

Egypt implemented a rule on Nov. 15 that prevents unvaccinated government employees from entering their place of work.


Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence
Updated 38 min 18 sec ago

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence

Muslim Council of Elders resumes Dialogue of East and West to promote coexistence
  • The council will hold its next regular meeting in Manama, which will coincide with the Dialogue of East and West for Human Fraternity 2022 conference
  • The Muslim Council of Elders is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb

CAIRO: The Muslim Council of Elders has decided to hold the next round of the Dialogue of East and West in Bahrain after postponing it in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

The council is an independent international body based in Abu Dhabi and aimed at promoting peace, dialogue and tolerance. It is headed by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and its membership includes an elite group of Muslim scholars.

The council will hold its next regular meeting in the Bahraini capital, Manama, which will coincide with the Dialogue of East and West for Human Fraternity 2022 conference.

The imam expressed his appreciation to Bahrain’s people and the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa for hosting the new edition of the dialogue.

He noted that the dialogue comes within the framework of strengthening relations between religious and cultural institutions in Islamic countries and their counterparts in Western societies, establishing common ground based on shared values and promoting coexistence.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Bahraini Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and a member of the Muslim Council of Elders, expressed Bahrain’s excitement to host the meeting and the new edition of the dialogue.

Sultan Al-Romaithi, secretary-general of the council, said that arrangements for the dialogue are now being finalized and that the new edition will witness positive interactions between Western and Eastern scholars and intellectuals.

He explained that the council is in the process of nominating youths to participate in the dialogue who have the capabilities to become future leaders and ambassadors for the Muslim Council of Elders.

The council was founded on July 13, 2014 to spread a culture of peace in Muslim societies, reject violence and extremism, and confront hate speech.


Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns

Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns
Updated 01 December 2021

Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns

Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns
  • One in three displaced Syrians know someone who has become ill or died because of the cold
  • People will be forced to choose between food and fuel during the winter months, says charity head

LONDON: The majority of displaced Syrians face a bitter winter with inadequate shelter and not enough food, a humanitarian organization working in Syria and Lebanon has warned.

Syria Relief said that the already brutal winter is exacerbated by the country’s economic crisis, which has sent prices of fuel and food skyrocketing.

Only 29 percent of internally displaced people (IDP) in Northern Syria believe that their current accommodation adequately protects them from winter conditions, according to a survey conducted by Syria Relief, which provides lifesaving aid and humanitarian interventions in the war-torn country.

The number is higher, at 52 percent, for Syrian refugees living in informal settlements in Lebanon, according to Syria Relief’s survey of over 1,000 people across Aleppo, Idlib, and Lebanon.

Around one in three respondents in Syria and Lebanon know someone who has either died or developed health conditions due to the cold.

Syria Relief Chief Executive Othman Moqbel told Arab News: “All of us, working on the ground, are very worried about this winter.”

He said: “There is the common misconception that Syria and Lebanon are hot, but in the winter months, especially high up in the mountains where there are many refugee and IDP camps, the temperatures regularly plummet to freezing temperatures. Winter is one of the greatest threats to a Syrian IDP or refugee living in a tent, as temperatures can drop as low as -10 C.”

Syria’s collapsing economy, worsening every year, makes the upcoming winter the toughest yet, Moqbel said.

“Last winter it was estimated by the UN that 80 percent of Syrians lived in poverty. Now, it is estimated at 90 percent. There are 13.4 million Syrians who depend on humanitarian aid to survive.

“To simply survive, millions of Syrians need fuel to keep the stoves they use for warmth fired up. But it’s expensive and the economic situation means fuel is harder than ever to find for many families.

“To afford the fuel they need to stop them freezing to death, most families living in tents have to make sacrifices. Maybe they will go without food, maybe one of their children will go without food, maybe all of them will have to go without food for a few days.”

Moqbel explained that Western countries, such as the UK, could take action that would alleviate the suffering of these Syrians.

“We would like to see the UK in particular not cutting its aid budget and instead ensuring that more money is spent on displaced Syrians who are already some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”