Israel Braces for Palestinian 'Day of Rage' to Support Prisoners, Jailbreakers

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Israeli forces near Jenin, in the northern West Bank, on Thursday.
Israeli forces near Jenin, in the northern West Bank, on Thursday.Credit: JALAA MAREY - AFP

The Israeli military is preparing for a day of violence across flash points in the West Bank and beyond, after Palestinian groups called for a "day of rage" on Friday in solidarity with prisoners and the six fugitives who sparked a countrywide manhunt after they broke out of Gilboa Prison.

Visiting the area in Israel bordering the northern West Bank, Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed on Friday to "lay our hands on the people who escaped from prison," operating for however long and wherever is needed to "restore security to this area."

"We have to understand we're talking about six people out of millions living here," Gantz added. "We have to be able to handle these six and those who assisted them without disturbing the balance."

Wasel Abu Yousef, an executive member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said the various factions had reached an agreement to head to friction points in the West Bank, such as checkpoints and military presence around cities, and confront IDF troops.

The calls to protest also aim to draw the Palestinian public to mass demonstrations in East Jerusalem, as well as marches in the Gaza Strip.

The security establishment is also closely monitoring one Hamas prisoner on hunger strike, who has been evacuated to an Israeli hospital in a critical condition. It fears that any deterioration in his condition could lead to further escalation.

Despite the calls from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the extent of the buy-in remains unclear, and will largely depend on the actions of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.

A senior official in the Palestinian Authority told Haaretz that while it is not possible to remain indifferent in the face of recent developments, nobody is interested in severing its relationship with Israel altogether. 

However, the official said, the Palestinian Authority would not be able to oppose or prevent the protests. He added that the outcome would be contingent on Israel's conduct: "I hope, on Israel's part, that we do not see acts of revenge and repression, or shooting at demonstrators."

The "day of rage" comes a day after demonstrations in the West Bank following a call by prisoners to rally to support them, in light of what they viewed as punitive measures taken against them by the Israel Prison Service, including transfers to different wings and prisons.

On Thursday, the Israel Prison Service stated that clashes continued in several prisons across the country, including Ramon Prison, where inmates set the cells alight, as they had done in Ketziot Prison on Wednesday. 

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