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Six Palestinians, including a former leader of an armed group, escaped from a high-security prison in Israel on Monday by digging a tunnel. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the escape as a “very serious incident” and indicated that he was monitoring the fugitives in real time.
It’s an escape worthy of a Hollywood movie script. Six Palestinian prisoners, including a former leader of an armed group, escaped Monday, September 6, from a prison in Israel via a tunnel dug under a sink, triggering a vast manhunt.
Before dawn, Israeli prison services said an initial alarm was triggered around 3 a.m. (midnight GMT), when residents claimed to have seen “suspicious people” around Gilboa (north) prison, where hundreds of Palestinians are imprisoned.
Prison service images show a tunnel dug under a large ceramic bathroom, at the foot of a sink, through which the inmates escaped from this high-security prison.
The penitentiary services said they were in the process of relocating some 400 Gilboa prisoners held for “security crimes” to prevent them from escaping through other tunnels that may have been dug underground.
This rare escape is not to remember the film directed by Frank Darabont, “Shawshank Redemption” (“The Escapees”, 1994), in which two men, played by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, escape from prison via a tunnel that they took years to dig.
It comes as Israel prepares to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The Israeli police have launched a massive manhunt.
The army, for its part, made aerial observation means available to the police and said it had prepared its troops to intervene in the West Bank if necessary.
According to Israeli media, the fugitives may have already returned to Palestinian territory, occupied by Israel since 1967, where in some areas security is controlled by Palestinian units.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the escape as a “very serious incident” and indicated that he was monitoring the fugitives in real time.
Israeli authorities have not disclosed the identity of the escapees, but the Palestinian Prisoners Club, an organization based in the West Bank, has identified them.
Among them are Zakaria al-Zoubeidi, who until 2007 was head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, sentenced to life in 1996. .
In 2007, Zakaria al-Zoubeidi pledged to lay down his arms, in exchange for an agreement with Israel to remove him from its list of wanted Palestinians.
But the Israeli authorities later backed off the deal, with Israeli internal security service Shin Beth saying he had been involved in “various attacks.” And the man was arrested and jailed in 2019.
The Islamist movement Hamas, in power in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and the Islamic Jihad, one of the main Palestinian armed movements, hailed the escape.
“It is a heroic and courageous act, a victory for the will and determination of our heroic prisoners, a real setback for the Zionist security system, which the occupation presents as the best in the world,” said Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman, quoted in a statement.
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Located in northern Israel, the Gilboa high-security prison began operating in 2004, amid a wave of attacks linked to the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising of 2000-2005.
Monday’s escape comes after deadly clashes in recent months in various places in the occupied West Bank, notably in the village of Beita and in the Jenin camp (north), a hotbed of Palestinian protests and the scene of deadly clashes in July between the army and local factions.
In addition, rare demonstrations have taken place in recent weeks to challenge the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and clashes continue along the barrier separating Israel from the Gaza Strip, where Islamic Jihad is also operating.