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Israeli security forces gear up for more violence as manhunt continues

CM 10/09/2021

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Israel’s defense establishment is preparing for an escalation in violence in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as the manhunt continues for six security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison earlier this week.
The IDF has reinforced the West Bank with four battalions with a focus on the area of Jenin and the border with Jordan, two locations to where the fugitives could have run.

 Palestinians demonstrate in support to the escape of the six Palestinian prisoners from Gilboa Prison, in the city of Hebron on September 08, 2021. (credit: WISSAM HASHLAMON/FLASH90) Palestinians demonstrate in support to the escape of the six Palestinian prisoners from Gilboa Prison, in the city of Hebron on September 08, 2021. (credit: WISSAM HASHLAMON/FLASH90)

Israel canceled family visits for Palestinian prisoners on Thursday until the end of the month, following the violent riots that broke out in jails across the country. The Palestinian Maan News Agency cited the Red Cross as saying families were informed that the visits were canceled due to “dangerous developments” in Israeli prisons.

The rioting prisoners, mainly belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, set fire to cells in Ketziot, Ramon and Ofer prisons on Wednesday after Israel Prison Service (IPS) Commissioner Katy Perry placed new restrictions on inmates, and moved hundreds of prisoners in order to ensure that only one PIJ prisoner would be in a cell at a time.
On Thursday, prisoners set fire to their cells at Ramon Prison in southern Israel.
Following the escape, the IPS said that it would be sending the other security prisoners from Gilboa Prison to other facilities across the country as a precautionary measure in case there are other tunnels.
Inmates from Gilboa and Megiddo Prison in the North were moved to other jails in the South. On Wednesday, however, the IPS backtracked on moving some 150 PIJ inmates from Ofer Prison in the West Bank after prisoners threatened to riot, commit arson and harm guards if they were transferred.
Although the riots and fires were brought under control, authorities are preparing for additional violence.
N12 reported on Thursday afternoon that 60 PIJ prisoners were moved out of Ofer Prison and sent to a number of other jails. The Prison Service announced that all PIJ inmates in Gilboa Prison had been dispersed and transferred to jails, and will not be returned to the Northern District.
Further measures following the riots that broke out in the prisons were also imposed, including thorough searches in cells and entire wings, reinforcing the number of prison guards, mixing up daily routines, and locking security prisoners’ cells for the entire day.
The moves were ordered by Perry, who has come under harsh criticism following the escape. She promised to deal with any of the failures that led to the breakout, as the nationwide manhunt for the fugitives entered its fourth day.
Five of the fugitives belong to PIJ and were serving life sentences. The fifth, Zakaria Zubeidi, was a prominent leader in Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades during the Second Intifada. He was later granted amnesty but was arrested again in 2019.
“We will get our hands on the fleeing terrorists, we will correct the failures that might have led to the escape, and if we find professional negligence, we will take care of that as well,” said Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev.
The minister also said he would form a commission of inquiry into the escape. The inquiry, which Bar-Lev said was approved by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, will be headed by a retired High Court judge pending government approval.
The national unit for investigating prison staff is looking into the possibility that guards helped in the escape, with 19 guards having been questioned so far, according to Haaretz.
Perry’s directives came as some members of the security establishment called on Bar-Lev to consider firing her. She has been serving in her current role for eight months.
In a letter to IPS officers, Perry wrote that the escape from the Gilboa Prison on Monday “was a difficult, jarring and planned event with many consequences” and would be “investigated in-depth,” adding that she would continue to lead the organization throughout the crisis.
“The IPS is an organization that deals with the most dangerous people in the world, and their actions in the past have shown that their guiding principle is that they have nothing to lose,” she wrote. “I am here to continue to lead you, and together serve the State of Israel and its citizens.”
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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