West Bank City of Jenin Prepares for Confrontation With Israel, as Search for 2 Fugitives Goes On
Israel believes that at least one of the fugutives has already reached the city, associated with such militant groups as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Militants from Jenin have already dispatched a message to the Jewish state warning it that if IDF forces enter the area, they will be met with a force.
Israel is continuing its manhunt for two of six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa prison last Monday.
Four have already been caught after an intensive 5-day search throughout the country. Two remain on the run, and Israel's security apparatus believes that at least one of them has managed to cross the border and reach the Palestinian Authority.
Hometown of the Fugitives
Israel believes that one of the cities they may hide in is Jenin, located in the north of the West Bank.
It was the city all six hailed from. It was there, where thousands took to the streets to welcome the prison break and it was there, where many celebrated their escape, with drivers honking and crowds firing into the air. Many have also distributed candy and other sweets. Others were waiting in front of one escapee's house in anticipation that they would show up.
Mansour Saed, the deputy governor of Jenin, confirmed his people's happiness about the inmates' escape from the Israeli prison and said they did it because they were "trying to take their rights back, especially as Israel violates basic human rights and all international laws".
Now as the manhunt after them continues, he says he is unaware of their whereabouts and that he is worried about their fate.
Hotbed of Resistance
But what he is also concerned about is the battle that could erupt if Israeli forces end up entering the city in search of the fugitives.
Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, Jenin has been a city of fierce resistance to Israel. It was home to many Palestinian terrorists that entered the Jewish state, where they set off bombs, stabbed individuals, or engaged in shooting sprees.
Back then, the situation was so unbearable that Israel was forced to seize the city in order to combat the militants living or hiding there. In the process, 170 houses were completely destroyed. Dozens of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers were killed during the operation.
Since then, the situation has been relatively quiet but under the surface Jenin has been brewing. Militants in the city have accumulated piles of ammunition, and they've used it against Israeli soldiers in dozens of incidents registered since the end of Israel's latest measures in the Gaza Strip, "Operation Guardian of the Walls".
Israeli experts believe that militants from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, who control the city, will not hesitate to show their strength should Israel enter Jenin in its quest for the fugitives, and Saed promises that people in the area "will not stay quiet and will clash with the IDF".
"I don't believe that the two prisoners are in Jenin. It is an Israeli narrative and they'll use it to storm the city and violate our rights. If they do so, we are ready to fight back".
Heading Toward Escalation?
Recent days have already seen mass demonstrations in Jenin, specifically after the capture of Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the escapees recaptured by Israel, and who was reportedly beaten up by the nation's security forces.
Hundreds gathered in the centre of the city to vent their anger at Israel, while dozens of youngsters were captured heading on their motorcycles to the closest Israeli checkpoint, purportedly to confront the IDF.
This is why some in the Jewish state have already voiced concerns that the next escalation with the Palestinians is just around the corner. And Saed says that if the situation continues to deteriorate, it will end up "exploding in the face of Israel".