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Israel security forces hunting for 6 Palestinian prisoners who tunneled out of jail

CM 07/09/2021

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A massive manhunt for six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa prison in Israel’s North using a tunnel continued for its second day on Tuesday.
“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,” police spokesman Eli Levy said.
Police, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Border Police and troops from two IDF companies as well as Special Forces are taking part in the manhunt, and have placed some 200 roadblocks throughout the country to catch the escapees. Security forces are also utilizing special units in the search involving dogs and aerial support.
“Our goal is to catch and arrest them – as long as there is a possibility that they are in Israel,” he said.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that troops in the West Bank have been alerted to the escape and are on high alert. 
Walla! News reported that two of the escapees crossed into Jordan and of the four that remain in Israel, two are hiding out in the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Syrian border.
Police are also investigating the possibility that the escapees may have managed to escape to Jenin.
The six prisoners shared a cell and discovered a structural flaw in the construction of the prison and dug the tunnel for over a year. 
According to Walla!News, a preliminary investigation of the incident found that the warden who was in the guard tower above the tunnel shaft, from which the six terrorists fled the prison, fell asleep.
They coordinated the escape with people outside the prison using a smuggled cellphone and after they escaped the prison, it’s believed that they got away from in a getaway car that was waiting for them nearby after they changed clothes and were given arms.
Police on Tuesday searched the Arab towns of Na’ura and Tamra, entering mosques and setting up checkpoints. Three people in Na’ura were arrested in connection to the escape. Police also searched the Palestinian town of Jalama near the city of Jenin.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Interior Minister Omer Bar-Lev and said that this was a “serious incident that will require the efforts of all security services.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situational assessment with Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, IDF Operations Division head Maj.-Gen. Oded Basiuk and Central Command head Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs following the escape.
Gantz was updated on both the intelligence and operational efforts to find the prisoners and ordered that troops at border crossings and crossings in the Seam Zone be reinforced, a statement from his office said.
The police are preparing for the possibility that the terrorists might attempt to carry out an attack during the Rosh Hashana holiday, including the possibility of kidnapping Israelis in order to release other prisoners.
Officials held several situational assessments over the holiday.
The escape tunnel dug by the prison escapees with discarded clothes in it. (Credit: IPS Spokesperson)
A senior police official said that this is one of the worst incidents of this kind to have ever happened in the country. And, according to Kan, police are investigating whether or not guards were involved in the escape.
The six were high-security prisoners who were all in jail with life sentences for deadly terror attacks against Israelis and according to Hebrew media reports, three of them had attempted to escape in the past.
The escape, which began around 3:30 a.m., was reportedly discovered when a farmer saw the six prisoners running in his field and notified the police.

 View of the Shita prison, located next to Gilboa,and intended for 800 primarily security convicts. (credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90) View of the Shita prison, located next to Gilboa,and intended for 800 primarily security convicts. (credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) released the names and affiliations of the escaped prisoners.
One of the escapees is Zakaria Zubeidi, a Fatah commander who was responsible for multiple terror attacks and for killing many Israelis.
Zubeidi was arrested by the Shin Bet in 2019 following intelligence that he was planning a serious attack in the West Bank and for two shooting attacks against Israeli buses in the West Bank near Beit El and Psagot.
He was once considered a “symbol of the Intifada,” but renounced militancy over a decade ago and was awarded clemency by Israel after he agreed to give up arms.

Fatah's ZAKARIA ZUBEIDI 370 (credit: Reuters)Fatah’s ZAKARIA ZUBEIDI 370 (credit: Reuters)

The other five escapees were identified as Munadil Nafayat, Iham Kahamji, Yaquob Qadiri and brothers Mahmoud and Mohammed al-Arida. They are all members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and from towns near Jenin.
In a statement, PIJ called the escape “heroic” and that it was “an utter failure for the occupation army.”
PIJ leader Khaled al-Batash was quoted by Shehab News Agency, saying that if there is”any attempt to assassinate the heroes of the operation, we warn the occupation that they will pay a heavy price for it.”
They also quoted Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum as saying that the escape is a “great victory that proves that the will and determination of the resistance fighters and mujahedin cannot be defeated regardless of the challenges” and that the “Zionist enemy has never and will never win, no matter how much power it possesses. The struggle for freedom from the occupier continues.”
The IPS said it would be sending the other security prisoners at Gilboa Prison to other facilities across the country as a precautionary measure in case there are other tunnels.
Police placed a gag order on the investigation.
This is a developing story. Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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