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Hamas militant arrives in Gaza after escaping Egypt jail

Feb. 6, 2011 11:52 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 6, 2011 9:40 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A leader of Hamas' armed wing arrived in the Gaza Strip on Saturday after escaping from an Egyptian prison.

Thousands of prisoners broke out of jail in Egypt amid security chaos as ongoing anti-government protests spread across the country.

Al-Qassam Brigades militant Ayman Noufel returned to the Al-Buriej refugee camp in central Gaza, where he was received by his family and senior Hamas leaders.

Noufel was detained three years ago in El-Arish, when thousands of Palestinians broke out of Gaza through the wall on Egypt's border.

He was one of eight Palestinians who escaped from Egyptian jails, six of whom have returned to Gaza.

The whereabouts of the remaining two is still unclear, but their families said they received unconfirmed information that Egyptian forces detained them at a checkpoint near Sheikh Zweid, a city 15 kilometers from the Gaza border.

According to official statistics in Gaza, 39 Palestinians were in Egyptian prisons before the protests broke out. More than a dozen had court orders mandating their release, but Egyptian security insisted on keeping them in custody.

The oldest detainee to escape was Mu’tasem Al-Quka, who spent seven years in Abu Za'bal prison accused of affiliation with Hamas.

He added he did not know at first what he was charged with but was later told it was for being a member of a movement banned in Egypt.

Al-Quka said he was ill-treated in Egyptian prisons especially in Abu Za’bal prison. He said prisoners were able to flee the jail because Egyptians demolished its walls.

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