Manhunt for Palestinian prisoners after escape from Israel high-security prison

Israeli police are on a manhunt for six Palestinian prisoners who escaped last night from a maximum-security prison in the north of the country. The six dug a tunnel through which they could exit under the wall of Gilboa Prison. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks of a “serious incident” that requires maximum effort from the various security services of the country.

Bennet says he gets constant updates about the prison break. It was spotted around 3 a.m., a few hours before the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The inmates dug their tunnel under a sink and emerged on the other side of the prison wall. Their tunnel exit is right next to one of the watchtowers, according to Israeli media footage.

According to officials, roadblocks have been erected in the north of the country and in the occupied West Bank and security forces are patrolling the area. Israeli army radio reported that 400 prisoners are being transferred to prevent any new escape attempts. According to the radio, Gilboa Prison, located in the northern tip of the West Bank near the village of Salem, is considered one of Israel’s safest penal facilities and it appears that the six received outside help.

The fugitive detainees are believed to be on their way to Jenin, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises little control and militants have openly clashed with Israeli forces there in recent weeks. Israeli helicopters flew over the city Monday morning.


Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

According to the Palestine Prisoners Club, representing both current and former detainees, the six escaped men are between 26 and 49 years old and one of them is Zakaria Zubeidi (46). He had been imprisoned since 2019 and was a commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement, during the second Palestinian uprising (2000-2005). Four other fugitives were serving life sentences, the Club said.

According to the newspaper Haaretz the six are considered very dangerous and served life sentences for attacks on Israelis.

Praise

Palestinian militant groups were quick to praise the outbreak. “This is a great heroic act, which will cause a major shock to the Israeli security system and a severe blow to the military and the entire system in Israel,” said Daoud Shehab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum similarly dismissed the breakout, saying it shows “that the struggle for freedom with the occupying forces is continuous and extensive, within prisons and beyond to get this right.”

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