Israel captures escaped Palestinian prisoners after manhunt

Israel captures escaped Palestinian prisoners after manhunt
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Israeli police said Saturday that authorities had captured two more of the six Palestinian prisoners who had escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week, with two additional inmates still at large. 

Reuters reported that officials on Saturday found two of the men in a parking lot in northern Israel near the city of Nazareth, the same area where hours earlier they had located and captured two of the other escaped prisoners. 

Israeli police released footage purporting to show officers putting the two newly captured men, who were blindfolded and wearing handcuffs, into a vehicle, according to Reuters. 

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The news agency noted that among those captured Saturday was Zakaria Zubeidi, an ex-commander of the Palestinian nationalist Fatah group's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank. 

Authorities have said that the other five inmates who participated in the escape are Islamic jihad members.

Police are continuing to search for two of the escapees. All of the convicts had been held in the Gilboa prison just north of the West Bank due to convictions or ongoing investigations into attacks planned and carried out against Israeli citizens. 

Israeli officials first launched a manhunt for the escaped prisoners on Monday as Israel’s Army Radio reported that the men were able to make their way out of the facility through a narrow hole in their prison cell floor that led to a tunnel. 

Reuters noted that Mohammad al-Arda, brother of Mahmoud al-Arda, one of the prisoners who has been captured by authorities, said that the escape was executed with "no back up from the inside nor coordination with the outside."

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the prison escape earlier this week, calling it a “grave incident” that required immediate and maximum action from Israel’s national security agencies. 

The escape, which was praised by many Palestinians on social media, prompted Israeli officials to relocate 400 prisoners as a precaution while authorities ramped up security in the area. 

The escaped prisoners have also received support from Palestinian militant groups, with Islamic jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab calling the escape this week a “great heroic act [that] will cause a severe shock to the Israeli security system and will constitute a severe blow to the army and the entire system in Israel.”