Six Palestinians escape high-security Israeli prison through a tunnel
TEL AVIV: Six Palestinians broke out of an Israeli prison on Monday through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, triggering a massive manhunt for the group.
The Israel Prison Service (IPS) said an alert was sounded at roughly 3am by locals who spotted “suspicious figures” outside the Gilboa prison in the country’s north.
The group includes Zakaria Zubeidi — a prominent former leader of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which was a part of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah political movement, the IPS confirmed in a statement.
Police, the army and agents from Israel’s powerful internal security agency the Shin Bet joined the search effort, officials said. Sniffer dogs were deployed and checkpoints set up in the area surrounding Gilboa.
Israeli media reports said it was possible the escapees had already returned to the West Bank, a territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
The army said its forces were “prepared and deployed” in the West Bank as part of the operation.
In footage that recalled the iconic 1994 prison escape film “The Shawshank Redemption,” the IPS released a video that showed agents inspecting a narrow tunnel dug beneath a sink, burrowing deep into the ground.
The jailbreak occurred hours before Israel begins its High Holiday season, starting with Jewish New Year which begins at sundown.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a statement called the escape “a serious incident” and said he was receiving regular updates about the search.
All 400 inmates detained at Gilboa over “security offences” are being relocated in case additional tunnels have been dug beneath the facility, according to the IPS. – AFP