Six Palestinians escape from high-security Israeli prison

Escapees appeared to have opened a hole from their cell toilet floor to access passages


Reuters September 06, 2021
Palestinian commander of the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Zakaria Zubeid is carried on the shoulders of supporters in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 30, 2004. REUTERS

JERUSALEM:

Six Palestinians broke out of a high-security Israeli prison on Monday in what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called a grave incident.

Israeli police and the military had started a search after the escape from Gilboa prison in northern Israel.

The Prisons Service said five of the fugitives belonged to the Islamic Jihad movement and one was a former commander of an armed group affiliated with the mainstream Fatah party.

Arik Yaacov, the service's northern commander, said the escapees appeared to have opened a hole from their cell toilet floor to access passages formed by the prison's construction.

The facility, about four kilometres (two miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, is one of the highest-security jails in Israel and houses Palestinians convicted or suspected of anti-Israeli activities, including deadly attacks.

Read Israeli forces 'kill four Palestinians in West Bank'

Four of the men were serving life sentences, a Palestinian prisoners organisation said. Several Palestinian factions hailed the jailbreak.

"This great victory proves again that the will and determination of our brave soldiers inside the prisons of the enemy cannot be defeated," said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas.

Bennett's office said he spoke with Israel's internal security minister and "emphasised that this is a grave incident that requires an across-the-board effort by the security forces" to find the escapees.

A police spokesman said security forces believed the fugitives might try to reach the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, or the Jordanian border some 14km (nine miles) to the east.

One of the escapees was identified by the Prisons Service as Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin. Israeli authorities claim the brigades carried out deadly attacks against Israelis during a 2000-2005 Palestinian uprising.

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