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EIGHT relatives of Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Gilboa jail earlier this week were detained today by Israeli security forces.
Defence officials said that the hunt for the six fugitives could last for weeks after they were seen leaving separately from a mosque in the town of Na’ura.
Palestine Prisoners Society spokesman Muntaser Samour said that a large-scale military operation took place in Arraba town, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, in the early hours.
Soldiers ransacked houses and detained the sister and brothers of one of the six escapees, Mahmoud Ardah, while two cousins of Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri were rearrested in the village of Bir al-Basha.
Israeli security officials have said that there is rare consensus among all the Palestinian factions in support of the escaped prisoners.
Sources said that even the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem by former US president Donald Trump did not bring the same high degree of unity.
The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said today that the issue of political prisoners was “a red line” and that there could be no peace or stability without their release.
Fatah official Ashraf al-Ajrami warned that Israeli actions could spark a major revolt, with the Palestinian ruling party calling for an uprising earlier this week.
“We’re still in the initial stages, but there’s potential for the situation to develops,” he said. “If Israel finds the fugitives and eliminates them or if it embarks on a big raid in Palestinian Authority areas, that could lead to intense clashes and a corresponding response from Gaza.”
Five of the escapees are members of Islamic Jihad, which warned on Tuesday that “every act of revenge on prisoners will bring the opening of the gates of hell against Israel in every place.”
On Thursday, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, vowed that it would “make any sacrifice to defend our heroic prisoners.”
The Palestinian People’s Party described Sunday’s jailbreak as a “heroic act” and called on the international community to intensify efforts to secure the release of “prisoners of war” held in occupation jails.
It urged the Palestinian people and the state to act as a “popular and official incubator” to protect the escapees from the Israeli authorities.
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