Israel arrests 4 Palestinian fugitives who escaped prison

Israel arrests 4 Palestinian fugitives who escaped prison
Arab Israeli protesters lift spoons, reportedly the digging tool used by six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel's Gilboa prison. (AFP)
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Updated 11 September 2021

Israel arrests 4 Palestinian fugitives who escaped prison

Israel arrests 4 Palestinian fugitives who escaped prison
  • The six men escaped early on Monday by tunnelling through a hole adjacent to their cell's toilet
  • Video on social media showed Israeli officers putting two men into the back of separate police vehicles

JERUSALEM: Israeli police on Saturday said they have arrested four of the six Palestinians who broke out of a maximum-security prison this week — including a famed militant leader whose exploits over the years have made him a well-known figure in Israel.

The arrests moved Israel closer to closing an embarrassing episode that exposed deep flaws in its prison system and turned the fugitive prisoners into Palestinian heroes. Late on Friday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into Israel in an apparent sign of solidarity, drawing Israeli airstrikes in reprisal.

The four wanted men were caught in a pair of arrests in northern Israel.

Early on Saturday, police said they had caught two men, including Zakaria Zubeidi, hiding in a truck parking lot in the Arab town of Umm Al-Ghanam.

The Israeli Haaretz news site, quoting an unidentified defense official, said Zubeidi and fellow fugitive Mohammed Aradeh had been hiding outdoors for some time. The source said the two escapees appeared to have received no help following their escape and had no planned route on where to go.

Zubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.

While he has been linked to attacks on Israelis, he also was well known for giving frequent media interviews and for a friendship he once had with an Israeli woman. Zubeidi over the years had received amnesty and taken college courses and was active in a West Bank theater movement before he was re-arrested in 2019 on suspicions of involvement in attacks.

Photos released by police showed Zubeidi, handcuffed and wearing a white head band, being led away by two police officers.

In a statement, police said that Israeli security forces, including the military, have been working “around the clock” to catch the fugitives.

“All of the forces were deployed at full strength, searched in open areas, collected every piece of information until they succeeded in solving the puzzle to locate these two fugitivies,” including Zubeidi, police said. The search for the final two prisoners was continuing.

Earlier, two other prisoners were arrested in Nazareth, an Arab city in northern Israel just west of Umm Al-Ghanam.

A video circulating on social media showed Israeli police shackling one of the prisoners, Yakub Kadari, into the backseat of a police vehicle and asking him for his name. The man, wearing jeans and a green T-shirt, calmly identifies himself as Kadari and answers “yes” when asked whether he is one of the escapees. Kadari was serving two life sentences for attempted murder and bomb planting.

According to Israeli media reports, local residents in both towns had turned in the prisoners.

The six Palestinians tunneled out of the Gilboa prison on Monday, setting off a furious manhunt across Israel and in the West Bank.

For the Palestinians, the fugitives won praise for succeeding in freeing themselves from multiple life sentences. Fighting against Israel and taking part in attacks against the Israeli military or even civilians is a source of pride for many, and Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause.

In the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank, Palestinians had organized sit-ins and joyful gatherings to celebrate the prison break.

While Zubeidi was a member of the secular Fatah group, the others belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group, including four serving life sentences. All of the prisoners are from the nearby city of Jenin in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

As soon as the news about the capture of the two fugitives was confirmed Friday, a flurry of bitter posts expressing disappointment and shock filled Palestinian social media.

Israel said late Saturday that Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a rocket toward Israel that was intercepted by Israeli air defenses. The Israeli military said it responded with airstrikes on a series of Hamas targets in Gaza. Israel says it holds Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, responsible for all rocket fire emanating from the territory.

There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian Authority, but Abdeltaif Al-Qanou, a spokesman for the Gaza-ruling Hamas movement, said despite the re-arrest, the prisoners have “scored a victory and harmed the prestige of the Israeli security system.”

The escape has exposed major flaws in Israel’s prison service and set off days of angry criticism and finger-pointing. The men escaped through a hole in the floor of their shared cell, tunneled through a hole outside the prison and according to media reports, escaped past a sleeping prison guard.

It has also increased tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

Earlier on Friday, Hamas had called for “a day of rage” to protest Israeli crackdown against imprisoned Palestinians, but the day passed without major confrontation. In Jerusalem, a Palestinian suspected attacker died shortly after being shot by Israeli police in the volatile Old City, where he had reportedly tried to stab officers. Police said one officer was lightly wounded in the leg.


Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM

Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM
Updated 29 sec ago

Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM

Egypt will strive to help Africa recover from COVID-19: FM
  • Egypt has started locally producing China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for exporting surpluses to African countries
  • FM Shoukry handed a letter to Senegalese President Macky Sall from his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties

CAIRO: Egypt will spare no effort to help African states recover from the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at the seventh session of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa.

Egypt has started locally producing China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for exporting surpluses to African countries.

Shoukry said the pandemic has impeded efforts to achieve peace and stability on the continent, and has exacerbated humanitarian crises.

It has become impossible to deal with the pandemic solely as a global health crisis, as it has affected all aspects of life, he added. 

Shoukry highlighted issues that Africa should prioritize, including developing a common vision to address shortcomings in the continent’s medical infrastructure, such as dependence on foreign medicines and vaccines.

He also noted the importance of addressing the root causes of terrorism and armed conflicts in Africa by rebuilding societies that have suffered from the scourge of war and conflict.

He praised the selection of Senegal for the African Union presidency from February 2022, and expressed Cairo’s readiness to provide all forms of support to the country in light of Egypt’s experience as president of the bloc in 2019.

Shoukry handed a letter to Senegalese President Macky Sall from his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties, as well as issues of common concern.


Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise
Updated 07 December 2021

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise
  • Friendship Bridge 4 is part of Egypt’s plan to carry out joint military training with friendly countries

CAIRO: The Egyptian and Russian navies have launched the joint exercise Friendship Bridge 4, which will last for several days in the Mediterranean.

It began with a ceremony welcoming Russian forces at the Alexandria Naval Base in the presence of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Khaled Hassan Saeed, who delivered a speech in which he stressed the importance of cooperation between the two countries’ navies.

Friendship Bridge 4 is part of Egypt’s plan to carry out joint military training with friendly countries.

 Meanwhile, the armed forces of Egypt and Jordan concluded their joint exercise Aqaba-6. The training, which took place in Jordan, included a joint operation to eliminate an armed terrorist outpost inside a border village, and the interception of a merchant ship.


Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
Updated 07 December 2021

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
  • A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Tarek Bitar from questioning top officials

BEIRUT: The probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast has been cleared to resume after being suspended for more than a month on legal claims against its lead investigator, judge Tarek Bitar, a judicial source said.
A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Bitar from questioning top officials on Tuesday.
“They have reversed the decision that had led to the suspension of the probe and he can now resume his work for sure,” Nizar Saghieh, head of the Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, told Reuters.
The resumption could be temporary should further legal complaints be filed, he said.
The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the city has made little headway amid pushback from powerful factions, some of whom lead smear campaigns and filed multiple suits against Bitar.
The leader of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Muslim political movement Hezbollah has repeatedly said he wanted Bitar removed from the case and the row over him has spilled over into government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet unable to meet since Oct. 12.
Many Lebanese are angry that more than one year on from the blast no senior official has been held accountable for the country’s worst peace-time disaster as it slips into political and economic meltdown.
Bitar has sought to question senior politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him.
He is the second judge to take charge of the investigation after a legal complaint against the partiality of his predecessor Fady Sawan saw him removed in February.


Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4
Updated 07 December 2021

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

BASRA: At least four people were killed and 20 wounded in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra, police and hospital sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police are still investigating the cause of the blast, which took place in the city centre, near a main hospital. The explosion set fire to at least one vehicle and damaged a minibus.
One police source said that an initial investigation showed that a motorcycle rigged with explosives could have been the cause of the blast. 


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.