When six Palestinian terrorists escaped from an Israeli prison last week it caused a sensation among Palestinian Arab society, with widespread calls to aid the fugitives. Given that so many Israeli Arabs had answered Hamas’ call to join last May’s war against Israel, it was assumed that they’d lend a hand this time, too.
With the manhunt nearly a week-old, Israeli police officials cautioned that the dangerous escapees would not be quickly recaptured. They were particularly worried about former terrorist warlord Zakaria Zubeidi, who had earned something of a mythological status among Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and even Israeli Jews. Surely this charismatic commander would find the assistance he needed to evade the Israelis.
But no. In the end, it was thanks largely to dozens of tips called in by Israeli Arabs that Zubeidi and three of his fugitive compatriots were nabbed over the weekend (at press time two of the terrorists remain at large).
“For four days the escapees wandered around believing they would find shelter and help among Arab Israelis, but they were mistaken,” tweeted Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. “Everywhere they turned, Arab citizens refused them and called police. Much respect to all the responsible citizens!”
Not only did Israeli Arabs refuse to provide shelter, vehicles or other logistical support to the terrorist fugitives, they apparently wouldn’t even feed them.
Police officials reported that when they found Zubeidi and one of the other fugitives in a parking lot in northern Israel, they were starving and scared, and had clearly been digging through the garbage in search of food.
Palestinians were furious, both by the fact that the fugitives could find no assistance among Israeli Arabs, and that what they had at first touted as a grand and inspirational act of resistance had ended in such pathetic failure. Israeli media reported that Palestinian social networks were flooded with bitter and angry posts following Zubeidi’s recapture.