Palestinian prisoners are continuing to struggle behind bars, as Palestinians in Jenin continue to resist occupation threats and attacks. After the self-liberation of six Palestinian political prisoners on 6 September through the Freedom Tunnel, two of the six remain liberated, Munadil Naf’at and Ayham Kamamji.
Inside Israeli detention centers, Mahmoud al-Ardah, Mohammed al-Ardah, Zakaria Zubaidi and Yaqoub Qadri continue to face harsh “military” interrogation, which routinely includes physical and psychological torture and abuse, in an attempt to force them to reveal the location of their liberated brothers.
The prisoners’ movement is also continuing to resist the stripping of rights from many Palestinian prisoners, especially those from Islamic Jihad. The prisoners are being subjected to collective punishment, denial of family visits, denial of access to the “canteen” (prison store) and isolation. At least 10 prisoners from Gilboa prison are facing interrogation, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, as the Israeli occupation alleges they were aware of the escape.
It is critically important to continue to organize and escalate the efforts taking place around the world to support the Palestinian prisoners and demand their liberation. Protests are currently being organized in numerous cities: join in and organize in your area!
The four detainees were beaten severely by Israeli occupation soldiers when they were seized from the street. The visible injuries on Zakaria Zubaidi’s face — and the refusal of the Israeli occupation authorities to allow the four prisoners to be seen by either lawyers, family members or independent doctors — sparked widespread speculation and fear about his condition.
While Zubaidi has been harshly beaten, leading to fractures in his jaw and broken ribs, there have been false reports and rumors that have served to confuse the situation and draw attention away from the ongoing threat of torture and abuse faced by Zubaidi and his fellow Palestinian prisoners. Contrary to false reports, Zubaidi has not been killed and has not, according to himself and his lawyer, suffered brain damage or electrocution.
The responsibility for this fake news rests squarely on the Israeli occupation, which refused to provide access to counsel or reputable information about the conditions of the four detainees and also actively distributed misinformation about their capture, alleging that Palestinians inside occupied Palestine ’48 with Israeli citizenship had turned them in. In reality, all four were found by the massive patrols of police, security forces and military forces sweeping the area.
Mahmoud and Mohammed al-Ardah, Zakaria Zubaidi and Yaqoub Qadri finally were able to speak with their lawyers in visits on 14 and 15 September, with all of them providing moving testimony about their experience of freedom during their self-liberation. Israeli occupation forces prevented the same lawyer from visiting more than one of the four; each reported on their experiences and emphasized that they would pursue the same path of escape and self-liberation to once again take their freedom.
Mahmoud al-Ardah declared that they received “no help from other prisoners inside Gilboa prison, and I am primarily responsible for planning and implementing this operation, which began in December 2020.” While spoons have become a symbol of their determination to dig the Freedom Tunnel to liberation, they also used broken dishes and frying pans to excavate the ground beneath their prison cell.
He noted that the six liberated prisoners walked together to the village of Naoura and entered the mosque, from which they split up in groups of two to proceed to their next destination. Mahmoud al-Ardah and Yaqoub Qadri were seized by one of the massive police patrols roaming the area as they walked on the side of a road near Nazareth. He said that he had worn the socks given him by his niece the entire time of his self-liberation.
Al-Ardah noted that no one had turned them in; a police patrol passed them and stopped them. They were interrogated continually from the time they were seized. Raslan Mahajna, his lawyer, noted that “Mahmoud assured me that he did not ask for help from anyone, because he refuses to expose anyone else to harm. He told me that he knows that if he had asked for any help from our people in occupied Palestine ’48, none of them would have hesitated to provide it, because he knows their generosity well.”
Al-Ardah told Mahajna: “I was very moved when I saw the crowds in front of the Nazareth court and I salute the people of Nazareth who boosted our spirits.” Palestinians gathered in a mass demonstration outside the court to show their support to the four heroes of the Freedom Tunnel.
He emphasized: “I reassure my mother about my health. My morale is high, and I salute our people in Gaza. I salute all of the masses of our Palestinian people for their positions.” He noted that they had a small radio and followed the news of the massive popular support for their self-liberation. “What happened is a great achievement, and I am concerned about the situation of the prisoners as a whole and the confiscation of their achievements” by the Israeli prison administration.
Mohammed al-Ardah met with his lawyer, Khaled Mahajna, at the Jalameh interrogation center. Mahajna reported that the entire meeting was conducted through glass and monitored through a headset. He said that he and Zakaria Zubaidi were discovered by chance by occupation forces who combed through a truck stop where the two had taken shelter. They were found by chance after an Israeli occupation soldier grabbed them from under a truck. Mahajna emphasized that Mohammed has remained silent despite all of the abuse and torture to which they were subjected. Mohammed told Mahajna: “When one of the interrogators told me that you do not deserve to live and you should be shot in the head, my answer was clear: I wandered in Palestine for five days, and I had hope to see my mother, and I am fully convinced that I will be free and roam free in Palestine once again.”
He reported that he was severely beaten when seized by Israeli occupation soldiers, stripped naked, and left to sit for hours until being taken to the Jalameh interrogation center. He was denied sleep or the ability to pray and did not receive food until Tuesday. He was beaten by interrogators and remained continually monitored by cameras in a small cell.
He noted that he had tasted sabr, cactus fruit, from one of the fields of Marj ibn Amer, for the first time since his arrest and imprisonment 22 years ago. They did not drink water during their journey, which exhausted them and made it more difficult for them to successfully evade the Israeli occupation soldiers. Mahajna said that Mohammed al-Ardah plans to write his entire experience, which was the first time that he had ever walked free in occupied Palestine ’48.
Al-Ardah reported that Zubaidi was brutally assaulted by Israeli special forces, and the severity of the beating le to him being transferred to a hospital for treatment.
He asked Mahajna if people had heard about their experience, and smiled at the news of the widespread support and solidarity for their self-liberation, thanking and saluting all who stand with them.
Zakaria Zubaidi met with his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, and noted that he was unaware of the plan for the Freedom Tunnel until the last days. Feldman noted that Zubaidi’s health and morale is good despite the beating and torture he suffered at the hands of the Israeli special forces when he was arrested, leading to a broken jaw and two fractured ribs. He is visibly bruised and scratched and was given only painkillers when transferred for treatment.
Feldman said that Zubaidi did not participate in digging the tunnel; he joined their cell one day before their self-liberation plan. Zubaidi emphasized, as had Mahmoud al-Ardah, that they did not ask for help from anyone in occupied Palestine ’48 during their days of freedom, in order to prevent Palestinians from facing arrest, torture and persecution by occupation forces.
Yaqoub Qadri met with his lawyer, Hanan Khatib, emphasizing that he would escape once again, emphasizing that he will never give up seeking freedom. He said that his time outside the prison was the “most beautiful five days” of his life and that seeing occupied Palestine ’48 in freedom was “a dream come true.” He said that he saw children with their parents and went up to them to hug and kiss them as he had not seen children in so many years.
He said that one of the jailers had knocked on the tiles of the cell the day of their escape, prompting them to expedite the plan by one week. He said, “I was in my country, and I was very happy: I ate figs, aloe, oranges and pomelo” from the trees of Palestine.
He also detailed the abuse and harsh interrogation tactics to which they were subjected, noting that they were stripped naked when seized by the occupation forces and then interrogated while naked. Over 20 interrogators, masked and physically threatening the prisoners, participated in the interrogation. They were continually denied sleep and repeatedly interrogated. Nevertheless, Khatib emphasized that his spirits were high and he drew morale and inspiration from the support they received.
Abu Obeida, the spokesperson of the Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas, emphasized that the prisoners of the Freedom Tunnel will be included in all future prisoner exchanges with the resistance, emphasizing that they will win their freedom.
While a larger potential collective hunger strike inside Israeli prisons was suspended after some concessions by the Israeli prison administration on the collective punishment imposed after the Freedom Tunnel, the prisoners’ movement emphasized that the struggle is continuing.
There are many prisoners still being subject to transfer, solitary confinement, harsh interrogation and isolation. Six Palestinian prisoners — Kayed Fasfous, Miqdad Qawasmeh, Alaa al-Araj, Hisham Abu Hawash, Raik Bisharat and Shadi Abu Aker — are continuing their hunger strikes against administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.
A representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine prison branch said that the struggle is continuing to force the prison administration to reverse all of its attacks on the prisoners, especially in order to end the dispersal and transfer of the Islamic Jihad prisoners. “The prisoners’ movement is determined to intensify the pressure on the occupation…including the issue of the Jihad prisoners.” He called on Palestinians to continue their activities and support the prisoners amid this ongoing attack, emphasizing that the prisoners are determined to achieve their goals and their freedom.
Islamic Jihad said in a press conference on 15 September that the penalties have not been fully lifted against the prisoners. “What has happened is a partial response to some of the prisoners’ demands. The basic demands were the lifting of all of the aggressive sanctions on the prisoners, including those specifically targeting the Islamic Jihad prisoners, and the complete return of the situation to as it was before 6 September. By responding to only some of the demands and not others, the prison administration wants to break up the general Palestinian nationa position and single out the Islamic Jihad prisoners.” They emphasized the need for comprehensive action to defend all of the prisoners.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network emphasizes and amplifies the call of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement to stand with the Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people today to demand justice and liberation for Palestine, from the river to the sea.
The liberated detainees of Gilboa prison represent the irrepressible hope of and commitment to liberation that no amount of militarized repression and Zionist colonization has suppressed, for over 73 years. The actions of this “Freedom Brigade” are not only a symbol of hope for Palestinians but also for everyone in the world who seeks justice and freedom. The rearrest of four liberated prisoners has done nothing to dim the light of liberation that they represent for humanity or to lessen the blow they have dealt to the mirage of Israeli invincibility and security control. They reflect the unbreakable Palestinian will to live, struggle and thrive in the most seemingly impossible circumstances.
Western imperialist governments are part and parcel of the ongoing attacks against Palestinian prisoners and the colonization of Palestine. From the U.S.’ over $3.8 billion annually in weaponry provided to the Israeli regime to the ongoing economic, political and diplomatic support provided by the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom and others, all of these states are directly involved in the ongoing crimes perpetuated against the Palestinian people. Everywhere in the world, we can and must act now to stand with the heroes of the Freedom tunnel and all Palestinian prisoners struggling for justice, and for the liberation of Palestine!
Please join these events in the coming days and announce your own:
Thursday, September 16
- London – Thursday, 16 September, 6:30 pm, Cundy Park, Protest DSEI Arms Fair. Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/373311987715525
- Minneapolis – Thursday, 16 September, 5:30 pm, Loring Park/Walker Art Center, Palestine bannering to remember Sabra and Shatila with the Anti-War Committee. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTxd_i8lKLV/
Friday, September 17
- Montreal – Friday, 17 September, 5 pm, Support the Prisoners! Israeli Consulate, 1 Westmount Square, Montreal. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CT2lZkQJLp8/
- Vancouver – Friday, 17 September, 5 pm, SportChek, 788 Robson St, Vancouver, Canada, #BoycottPuma and Support Palestinian Prisoners. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1072613673275853
- Chicago – Friday, 17 September, 4 pm, Rep Jan Schakowsky’s Office, 5333 N Broadway, Chicago. Support Political Prisoners, Demand Jan Schakowsky sign on to HR2590. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CT0RW7YrbBO/
- New York – Friday, 17 September, 5 pm “Columbus” Circle, then March. Globalize the Intifada/Free the Prisoners. NYC. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CT0lqFQFHNJ/
- San Francisco – Friday, 17 September, 3:30 pm, Montgomery and Market, San Francisco, CA. Protest for Palestinian Prisoners, organized by Palestine Action Coalition. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/970809170444680/
Saturday, September 18
- Sao Paulo – Saturday, 18 September, 4 pm, Al Janiah, Rua Rui Barbosa 269, Bela Vista, Sao Paulo/SP, Support Palestinian Prisoners and Remember Sabra and Shatila. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CT0Sz59vC0C/
- Ottawa – Saturday, 18 September, 2 pm, Protest and March, Human Rights Monument; 7 pm, Vigil at Parliament Hill for Palestinian Martyrs and Political Prisoners. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTze3Nfr-jk/
- Toulouse – Saturday, 18 September, Boycott Puma Palestine Stand,From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Metro Capitole – Toulouse, France, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/194889916045090
- Milano – Saturday, 18 September, 6 pm, Piazza Duca d’Acosta, Milan. Support Palestinian Prisoners! Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/438125917614846/
- Napoli – Saturday, 18 September, 11 am, Piazza Dante, Naples. Support Palestinian prisoners! Info: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=292262936042274&id=100943728507530
- Madrid – Saturday, 18 September, 12 pm, C/Velazquez 150, Metro Republica Argentina, Madrid.
- London – Saturday, 18 September, 1:30 pm, #BoycottPUMA Protest, Puma Store, Carnaby St, London. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTkZBlpjqWg/
- Manchester – Saturday, 18 September, 12 pm Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CT2hSjLKoZJ/
- Houston, TX – Saturday, 18 September, 4 pm, Post Oak and Westheimer, Houston. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CT0SHb5J5EC/
Sunday, September 19
- Ottawa – Sunday, 19 September, 1 pm, Surprise demonstration at Byward Market, meet at Human Rights Monument and depart towards Byward at 2pm, Ottawa. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTze3Nfr-jk/
Monday, September 20
- Boston – Monday, 20 September, 12 PM, Rally and Press Conference demanding an end to US support for apartheid Israel, JFK Federal Building, Boston. Info: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTzbwD1sSqZ/