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Fire at IDF troops in Ramallah; bus stoned at Damascus Gate

Hundreds riot in West Bank, East Jerusalem after jailbreak; IDF extends closure

PM says Israel ready for ‘every eventuality’ as manhunt continues, amid growing concerns fugitives’ exploits may spark greater violence in West Bank and Gaza

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires during confrontations with Israeli security forces following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, at the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Nablus, on September 8, 2021. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH/AFP)
Palestinian demonstrators burn tires during confrontations with Israeli security forces following a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, at the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Nablus, on September 8, 2021. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH/AFP)

Palestinians held large-scale demonstrations across the West Bank and Jerusalem Wednesday night, some of them violent, in solidarity with the six security prisoners who broke out of Israel’s Gilboa Prison earlier this week. Five of the fugitives are members of the Islamic Jihad terror group; the sixth is a notorious Fatah terror chief.

A total of some 400 Palestinians confronted IDF troops at eight West Bank flashpoints, burning tires and throwing rocks.

In at least one case, rioters near the Judea and Samaria Square in the Ramallah district of the West Bank were reported to use live fire against Israeli soldiers, but missed them. (A similar incident occurred at the same place amid a violent demonstration in May, during which two Israeli soldiers were wounded.) A second incident of gunfire toward Israeli troops occurred outside Jenin, Channel 12 reported.

Unrest was reported near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, the East Jerusalem Issawiya neighborhood, in Hebron, Hawara, Azzoun, near Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, and in other locations in the West Bank.

Two Palestinians were hurt from police’s rubber bullets, and another from a stun grenade during the clashes at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

In the West Bank town of Beita, two Palestinians were hurt by Israel Defense Forces’ live fire, the Red Crescent said.

And in Hawara, at least 100 Palestinians were treated by Red Crescent medics, most of them for inhaling tear gas fire by Israeli forces.

Also amid the clashes at Damascus Gate, an Israeli Egged bus was struck by stones reportedly hurled by Palestinian demonstrators.

No injuries were reported in the incident.

A bus is damaged after stones were hurled toward it, near Jerusalem’s Old City on September 08, 2021.(Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Meanwhile, the IDF said it was extending its closure of the West Bank on Wednesday night, amid fears of escalating violence in the area.

Since Monday’s jailbreak, Israeli security forces have been conducting a massive manhunt to capture the six fugitives, who are considered highly dangerous, after they broke out of the high-security Gilboa Prison in what is considered to be one of the most serious escapes in the country’s history.

In the days following the escape, security prisoners in several Israeli facilities have held riots and Palestinians have held at times violent demonstrations in support of the fugitives.

Wednesday saw major unrest at Ketziot Prison, where inmates burned several cells, as well as several other facilities.

A burnt prison cell is seen at Ketziot Prison following rioting by Palestinian security prisoners there, September 8, 2021 (Courtesy)

Israeli defense officials also fear that Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip, specifically Islamic Jihad, may renew rocket fire from the enclave in solidarity.

On Wednesday evening Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was “prepared for every eventuality,” following a meeting with the defense minister, public security minister, IDF chief of staff, Shin Bet chief, Israel Police commissioner, Israel Prisons Service commissioner, national security adviser and other top defense officials.

The West Bank closure, a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays, was put in place ahead of Monday’s Rosh Hashanah two-day holiday. It had been set to end on Wednesday at midnight, but will instead continue through Saturday night, the military said.

The extension of the closure is meant to aid in the manhunt and to contribute to the military’s efforts to tamp down tensions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinians rally in support of six fugitives who broke out of a high-security jail, in the West Bank town of Hebron on September 8, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

It will not apply to goods, which will still be allowed through West Bank crossings and will resume in Gaza Thursday. Palestinians who work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank will also be able to work as normal beginning Thursday, the IDF said.

The military added that exceptions to the closure will be made in “humanitarian, medical and irregular cases.”

The IDF on Wednesday said it was boosting its aid to the search efforts, with two battalions, six companies, two recon teams, a number of special forces squads and aerial surveillance teams assisting.

The six escapees include Zakaria Zubeidi, a notorious commander in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terror group, who was in prison while on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder.

Four escapees were in jail for life in connection with deadly attacks against Israelis and affiliation with the Islamic Jihad terror group. All were considered highly dangerous.

Zakaria Zubeidi, then the local commander of Fatah’s terrorist wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, sits in a car decorated with a poster of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, December 2, 2004. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

It was not clear if the escapees were still in Israeli territory, or had crossed into the West Bank or even Jordan.

Overnight and on Wednesday morning Israeli forces reportedly arrested family members of several of the Palestinian fugitives in the northern West Bank, near Jenin.

The six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa prison on Monday, September 6, 2021. Clockwise from top left: Yaqoub Qadiri, Mohammad al-Arida, Mahmoud al-Arida, Iham Kamamji, Zakaria Zubeidi, and Munadil Nafiyat (Screenshot: Palestinian Prisoners’ Media Office)

Monday’s escape has sparked tumult in Israel’s prison system. Senior officials from the prison were summoned for questioning on Tuesday evening, the Kan public broadcaster reported. Earlier in the day, at least 14 Israel Prisons Service staff were questioned by the police amid suspicions that they may have aided the escapees.

Prison officials and police are being widely castigated for lapses that facilitated the escape, with a litany of blunders allowing the breakout to occur in the first place, and a failure to grasp the severity of the situation for several hours after it occurred, ignoring early warning signs of a breakout.

Authorities said that they had not achieved any breakthroughs in the search for the terrorists as of Wednesday evening.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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