Israel recaptures final two prisoners after a weeks long manhunt

The final two prisoners who escaped Israel’s maximum security Gilboa prison earlier this month were recaptured over the weekend by Israeli forces, bringing an end to what Palestinians are now remembering as the “great tunnel escape.”

Last week, Israeli forces rearrested four prisoners from the group within hours of each other, all  in the Nazareth area in northern Israel, after a weeks long manhunt and embarrassment to Israel’s security apparatus. 

Ayham Kamanji, 35, and Munadil Nfeiat, 26, were the final two among the group of six prisoners to be recaptured by Israel on Sunday. 

Kamanji was one of four of the six prisoners who was serving a life sentence in Israeli prison when he escaped. Nfeiat, along with Zakaria Zubeidi, was arrested in 2019 and was still awaiting sentencing at the time of his escape. 

According to Palestinian media reports, Kamanji and Nfeiat were found hiding out in a safe house in Jenin city, just miles away from Kamanji’s home in the city’s refugee camp, and Nfeiat’s home in the nearby village of Yabad. 

The two reportedly surrendered themselves to Israeli forces after troops surrounded the safehouse where they were hiding. 

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet released a statement following the recapture of the prisoners, saying: “It is done. All six terrorists have been recaptured – and will be returned to prison – in an impressive, sophisticated and quick operation by the ISA, the Israel Police and the IDF.”

“What has broken down – it is possible to rectify,” Bennet said. 

According to Al Jazeera, Kamanji phoned his father shortly before he was rearrested, and told him that “For the safety of the people I am staying [with], I am turning myself in”. Kamanji and Nfeiat’s families were reportedly not aware that the two had made it to Jenin.

Palestinian reports alleged that while the people of Jenin were “ready to fight” any Israeli incursion into the city, the two prisoners turned themselves in so that no one would be hurt or killed during any possible fighting. 

Two other men who reportedly helped Kamanji and Nfeiat were also arrested by Israeli forces and taken in for questioning. 

Palestinians took to social media to express their grief over the recapture of all the prisoners, though many expressed that despite their capture, they would remain true “heroes” in Palestinian history books. 

So where are the Palestinian voices in mainstream media?

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