Informed that Ziad Awad, a convicted terrorist released in 2011 as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit, had been arrested in May for the Passover Eve murder of an off-duty policeman near Hebron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly ordered Israeli forces looking for the three teens kidnapped on June 12 to re-arrest dozens more of the Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the Shalit exchange.
According to Channel 10, Netanyahu ordered the military to seize other prisoners freed in the 2011 deal with Hamas because he felt “pressured” to respond to the fact that it was a prisoner freed by Israel, in the controversial Shalit deal that he approved, who had committed the Passover eve murder of father-of-five Baruch Mizrahi.
Thus he instructed the IDF and Shin Bet security agency to carry out the mass arrests.
Awad and his son Izz Eddin Hassan Ziad Awad were arrested on May 7 by the Israel Police’s elite counter-terrorism unit in collaboration with the Shin Bet. In the 11 days since Operation Brother’s Keeper began, 55 other Palestinian security prisoners freed in the Shalit deal have been rearrested for allegedly returning to terrorism.
While some were arrested for violating the terms of their release — for example, by once again taking part in terrorist activity — others were arrested for minor misdemeanors, such as illegal entry to Israel, the TV report said.
The Israeli judiciary was hard at work Monday evening preparing indictments which would send some of the prisoners to jail to resume their original sentences. Others were placed in administrative detention while the allegations against them were examined.
These 55 are in addition to 76 more of the 1,027 prisoners released in the Shalit deal who had been rearrested since they went free in 2011.
Among those recently rearrested was the record-breaking hunger-striker Samer al-Issawi, who was released from prison last December. Channel 10 said Israel is now adamantly opposed to releasing any of the current Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners, so as not to reinforce the Issawi precedent.
The Israeli habit of releasing prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldiers and other captive Israelis has always been highly controversial. Intelligence sources estimate that 60% of those who have been freed in these lopsided deals over the decades have subsequently been jailed again for terrorism.
Netanyahu’s decision to release 78 Palestinian prisoners in the framework of the failed nine-month peace effort, which collapsed in April, has also attracted considerable domestic criticism.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu) and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) have spoken out since the three teens were kidnapped against the notion of any prisoner exchange to secure their release, and legislation preventing such exchanges is making its way through the Knesset.
The gag order on the Mizrahi case was lifted Monday, leading the Shin Bet to announce that the man who had gunned down the off-duty policeman had been freed by Israel three years earlier.
The shooting was religiously motivated, the Shin Bet said, with the elder Awad telling his son that “according to Islam, whoever kills a Jew goes to heaven.”
Awad, who spent 12 years in an Israeli prison for the murder of Palestinian collaborators with Israel, was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange for Shalit before completing his term. Shalit was held hostage in Gaza for five years, having been captured in a Hamas raid into southern Israel in which two other Israeli soldiers were killed.
Mizrahi, senior police officer, was killed while driving to Hebron to celebrate Passover with his wife’s family. His pregnant wife, Hadas, was moderately injured in the attack.
On Monday, Hadas said she had always opposed prisoner exchanges, including the one that freed Shalit. She also said she hoped her husband’s murderers “get the punishment they deserve: the death penalty and not life imprisonment.”
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.