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Recaptured terror chief Zubeidi demands return of canteen privileges, blanket

Fatah commander petitions court after some prison privileges were apparently revoked following September jailbreak; 6 escapees in district court to hear indictments

Zakaria Zubeidi arrives for a court hearing at the District Court in Nazareth, on October 24, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Zakaria Zubeidi arrives for a court hearing at the District Court in Nazareth, on October 24, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Notorious terror commander Zakaria Zubeidi, who was rearrested after escaping a high-security prison last month, petitioned the Nazareth District Court on Sunday for the return of certain privileges that were apparently revoked after his capture.

Zubeidi, who is currently imprisoned at Eshel Prison near Beersheba, wrote in his petition that he is demanding family visits, the ability to purchase items from the prison’s canteen, the use of electrical products, and eyeglasses that “he really needs,” among other requests, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

He also asked to be allowed to have warmer clothes for the coming winter, and a comforter and pillows.

“All efforts on the subject so far have been in vain, including an appeal to the Red Cross on the matter, and therefore the intervention of the honorable court is required,” the petition to the Nazareth court read, according to Channel 12 news.

Zubeidi’s monthly family visits had been revoked amid the coronavirus pandemic in a move that was apparently not related to the jailbreak, according to his court submission, but updated COVID-19 guidelines permit family visits under certain restrictions.

The six prisoners — five of them members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, along with Fatah commander Zubeidi — escaped from Gilboa Prison on September 6, making their way out through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space underneath the prison.

Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape by six Palestinian prisoners, outside the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, September 6, 2021. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Four of the prisoners, including Zubeidi, were captured in northern Israel within the first week, but two others made their way into the northern West Bank city of Jenin and hid out there until their arrest on September 19.

The alleged mastermind behind the jailbreak, Mahmoud al-Arida, told investigators that Zubeidi was added to the jailbreak plan at the very end, in hopes that his connections in the Palestinian Authority would help protect them.

In this photo provided by Israel Police, Israeli security forces stand next to escaped Palestinian security prisoners Zakaria Zubeidi (left) and Mohammed al-Arida, blindfolded and handcuffed after being recaptured in the northern Arab town of Shibli–Umm al-Ghanam, on September 11, 2021. (Israel Police)

In his own interrogation, Zubeidi said he saw the tunnel for the first time on the day of the escape.

On Sunday, the six were brought to Nazareth District Court for their indictments to be read, marking the opening of the trial into the jailbreak.

The escape exposed a series of lapses at the prison, including a failure to learn lessons from previous escape attempts and several operational blunders, such as unmanned watchtowers and sleeping guards.

Zubeidi, who masterminded terror attacks during the Second Intifada as a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was granted amnesty in 2007. In 2019 he was arrested again, and charged with taking part in two shooting attacks against Israeli buses in the West Bank, with additional allegations dating back to the early 2000s added to the charge sheet.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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