On September 6th, a manhunt is underway morning after six high-risk security prisoners escaped from Gilboa Prison in the West Bank.
האסירים שעל פי החשד ברחו הלילה מכלא שיטה (הגלבוע) הכי מוכר זכריא זביידי איש הפת"ח. השאר מהגיהאד האסלאמי. pic.twitter.com/zx9mlyUlko
— Jack khoury.جاك خوري (@KhJacki) September 6, 2021
“Overnight, we received a number of reports about suspicious figures in agricultural fields and from the prison service, which discovered very quickly that prisoners were missing from their cells and that six escaped,” national police spokesman Eli Levy said.
The reports said five of the prisoners belonged to the Islamic Jihad movement and one was a former commander of an armed group affiliated with the mainstream Fatah party.
Officials are concerned that the six will try to carry out attacks or escape Israel. Three of them have previously been found to present a high flight risk.
The prisoners include Palestinians who previously carried out attacks against Israel.
Amongst the fugitives is Zakaria Zabidi, the former leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, who is allegedly responsible for a 2002 attack at a Likud party branch which killed six people.
Prison officials surmise that the six escaped via a tunnel leading outside the prison walls that they had managed to dig over the past few months.
Prison Service confirms the escapees from Gilboa Prison are 5 members of the PIJ and one of the al-Aqsa martyrs brigade. The security prisoners fled through a tunnel dug in the drainage of their cell. pic.twitter.com/3E4zAXuHvw
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) September 6, 2021
The Shin Bet (Israel’s security service) reported the inmates coordinated with collaborators outside the prison using a smuggled cellphone and had an escape car waiting for them.
The prison guards didn’t notice the escape operation. The escapees were noticed by local farmers who notified authorities.
An investigation into the incident is underway, said the Prisons Service. An official from the Israel Prison Service described the breach as “a major security and intelligence failure.”
In a statement made shortly after the event the Islamic Jihad called the escape “heroic” and added that it will “shock the Israeli defense system.”
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum praised the fugitives saying “the escape proves the bravery of these prisoners, achieving freedom despite such strict security measures. It’s a heroic and impressive action.”
Since the beginning of the manhunt, the IDF has set up roadblocks in the West Bank in an attempt to stop the prisoners from escaping into Jordan.
Police officers and Shin Bet personnel, as well as soldiers have been deployed to search for the escapees.
Israel Prison Service is preparing to evacuate the remaining prisoners, around 400 people, and dispersing them among other prisons in order to investigate the escape.
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