Al Mayadeen's Person of the Year 2021: The heroes of Freedom Tunnel
This year, Al Mayadeen has chosen the 6 Palestinian prisoner heroes who've carried out Operation Freedom Tunnel, showing the world the true meaning of resistance and resilience.
Al Mayadeen chose the heroes of the Freedom Tunnel from Gilboa Prison for the Person of the Year award 2021. Their self-liberation inspired this choice, as their characters were distinguished by merit, and creativity for the sake of freedom and the will to live.
The Freedom Tunnel prisoners are: Mahmoud Al-Aridah, Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, Yaqoub Qadri, Mohammed Al-Aridah, Ayham Kamamji, and Munadel Nafi'at. They were chosen based on merit for their innovative and creative struggle for freedom, for they provided the world with lessons on fighting for freedom and dignity.
About the six heroes of Operation Freedom Tunnel
On the Monday morning of September 6, 2021, 6 Palestinian prisoners carried out a heroic operation to escape from the Israeli Gilboa prison through a tunnel they dug, which led them outside the prison walls.
Mahmoud Abdullah Al-Aridah (46 years old)
Al-Aridah is the commander of the Gilboa prison escape operation - Operation Freedom Tunnel. He was born in the town of Arraba, Jenin District. He was arrested for the first time in 1992 and released in 1996, then he was arrested again in the same year on September 21, 1996.
He was also sentenced to life in prison, in addition to 15 years, on charges of membership in the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement and participating in resistance operations.
During his long detention, prisoner Al-Arida was subjected to punishment and restrictive measures, as he was isolated on June 19, 2011. After 4 months of isolation, an internal court convened and renewed his isolation for 60 days more with no justification.
Furthermore, the occupation prisons authority re-isolated him on June 11, 2014, against the backdrop of the discovery of a tunnel in Shatta prison which he intended to escape through, spending more time in isolation.
His words to his mother had a great impact: "I tried to go to you and embrace you dear mother before you leave this world, but God has decreed for us otherwise."
Zakaria Al-Zubaidi (46 years old)
Born in Jenin refugee camp, Al-Zubaidi is the former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah movement. Al-Zubaidi was elected as a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in 2006 and was arrested in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 27, 2019.
Prior to the escape, Al-Zubaidi was still detained and no verdict was issued against him after he was charged with being a member of the Al-Aqsa Brigades.
Mohammad Qassem Al-Arida (39 years old)
Born in the town of Arraba, Jenin District. He was arrested in an Israeli ambush on January 7, 2002, then released in mid-March 2002.
On May 16, 2002, he was besieged and arrested in Ramallah and was sentenced to three life sentences and 20 years in prison.
Al-Arida said: "My five-day journey through the streets of my country will spare me all my years of detention."
Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri (49 years old)
Born in the village of Bir Al-Basha, Jenin district. In 2000, he was chased by the occupation.
He participated in the battle to defend Jenin camp in 2002, and was arrested on October 18, 2003.
In 2004, Qadri was sentenced to two life sentences and 35 years in prison.
In 2014 he planned an unsuccessful escape through a tunnel from Shatta prison with a group of other prisoners.
He said: “A five-day journey is great for a person who has been deprived of everything for 19 years.”
Ayham Kamamji (35 years old)
Born in the village of Kafr Dan, Jenin, the occupation began pursuing him in May 2003, arresting him on July 4, 2006. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Kamamji was the first to respond to the assassination of the martyrdom of the Al-Quds Brigades, Muhammad Kamil, by carrying out a shooting attack on an Israeli bus in Ramallah.
Munadel Nafi'at (26 years old)
Born in the town of Ya`bad, Jenin district, Nafi'at was arrested in 2006 and released in 2015.
He was re-arrested in 2016 and 2020 on charges of belonging to Saraya Al-Quds -- the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement -- and for participating in resistance operations against the occupation forces.
It is noteworthy that the Israeli occupation re-arrested Yaqoub Qadri and Mahmoud Al-Arida on September 10, in occupied Al-Nasira.
On September 11, the occupation re-arrested Zakaria Al-Zubaidi and Mohammad Qassem Al-Arida, while re-arresting Ayham Kamamji and Munadel Nafi'at on September 19.