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Theater kid who became notorious terrorist leads in real life Israeli jailbreak

10 9 1

For nearly two decades, Zakaria Zubeidi has been an object of fascination for Israelis and Palestinians alike, who have seen his progression from child actor to swaggering terrorist to the scarred face of a West Bank theater promoting “cultural resistance” and then back to terrorist once again.

In his latest act, he has emerged as one of Israel’s most wanted fugitives after tunneling out of a high-security prison in the early hours of Monday, together with five other highly dangerous Palestinian security prisoners.

Zubeidi, now in his mid-40s, comes from a generation of Palestinians who were children during the First Intifada, or uprising against Israel, which erupted in 1987.

He was prominent among those who took up terrorism in the far more violent Second Intifada that erupted in 2000, which saw a strategic onslaught of suicide bombings and other murderous attacks on Israelis, and which claimed the lives of Zubeidi’s mother, brother and several comrades among the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who died in the fighting.

To most Israelis, he is a notorious terrorist, responsible for suicide bombings and shootings that killed civilians. “In many ways, he’s the poster kid for Israelis of the Palestinian terror campaign of the Second Intifada,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired general who served in Israeli military intelligence during the uprising. “He’s a Forrest Gump, sort of. He played all the roles.”

Among Palestinians, Zubeidi was just one of several prominent militants of that era, his name having long ago faded from the headlines. Now, he and the other escapees are being hailed as national heroes by some for staging the biggest breakout from an Israeli prison in decades, helped by a litany of Israeli blunders.

Zubeidi rose to prominence during the Second Intifada as the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist offshoot of the secular Fatah party, in the impoverished Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

The camp, which is home to Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants, was a central arena in the training and dispatch of suicide bombers to targets all over Israel, and the scene of a major battle with the IDF in 2002, as Israel sought to dismantle what it termed the “infrastructure of terrorism” there. A mishandled explosive left a peppering of black scars on Zubeidi’s........

© The Times of Israel

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