Skip to main content

Israel recaptures remaining escapees in prison break fiasco

Israeli security forces have redeemed their image after successfully capturing the six Palestinian prisoners who escaped last week from a high-security jail.
Israeli soldiers patrol near a hole in a security fence in the West Bank town of Jenin, on Sept. 6, 2021, following the break out of six Palestinians from an Israeli prison.

If the first half of this drama seemed like Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s worst nightmare, its second half and denouement was a dream come true for the premier and his fragile coalition government. Following the fiasco of the Sept. 6 escape by six Palestinian inmates from Israel’s highest security prison Gilboa that threatened the shaky foundations of Bennett’s coalition, Israel's security forces managed to restore their prestige with an impressive two-week manhunt that culminated on Sept. 18 with the successful capture of the final two escapees. All six, among them the former Fatah leader in the Jenin refugee camp Zakaria Zubeidi had been caught — two on Sept. 10, two on Sept. 11 and the final two on Sept. 18 — without a drop of blood being spilled on either side. Bennett’s sigh of relief seemed to echo from Jerusalem all the way to Ramallah.

In the days following the daring jailbreak, some in Israel worried that Zubeidi would become a Che Guevara-style popular hero and ignite Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Gaza. There was concern that the escapees would manage to reach Lebanon and hook up with Hezbollah or that they would cross into Jordan and plot to destabilize King Abdullah’s rule. Speculation about their capture also did not bode well. They were supposedly armed and willing to fight Israel’s soldiers, security service and police counter-terrorism units to the death. Such an event, experts opined, could turn into a bloodbath and a third intifada and turn the escapees into martyrs whose heroic deaths would set the region on fire.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.