‘Highly Dangerous’ Prisoners Escape From One Of World’s Most Secure Prisons In Huge Jailbreak
One of the world’s most secure prisons has seen a mass jailbreak after ‘highly dangerous’ prisoners reportedly escaped from their cells.
The Gilboa jail in northern Israel, known as ‘the Safe’, saw six Palestinian prisoners escape from its confines.
The inmates had all shared a cell at the prison and included a high-profile leader in the Palestinian al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades militia, as well as five members of the Islamic Jihad.
The prisoners are said to have escaped from their cell while a guard was asleep in a watchtower, tunnelling out of the high-security facility in the early hours of Monday morning, September 6.
The escapees are now being searched for by police, soldiers and agents from Shin Bet, a powerful internal security agency in Israel, with the help of sniffer dogs.
The incident is being described by prison officials as the biggest Palestinian jailbreak in 23 years.
An investigation into the escape revealed on Tuesday that prison authorities realised the convicts had escaped at approximately 3.30am, after one of the guards overlooking the tunnel opening from a watchtower had fallen asleep.
The six prisoners apparently entered the bathroom of their cell at about 1.30am, Al Jazeera reports, before they lifted an object that had been covering the hole a in the ground, before jumping down and crawling through a tunnel they had dug. The exit of the tunnel was located a few metres away from the prison’s wall and directly under the sleeping guard’s watchtower.
90 Palestinian prisoners out of a total of 360 being held in Gilboa have since been evacuated by the Israeli prison authority. The prison, once thought of as one of Israeli’s most secure facilities, will now be subject to a thorough inspection in case there are any other tunnels within the vicinity.
The tunnel the six escapees used to break out of the prison was said to be made accessible through a flaw in the prison’s structural design. ‘From our initial investigation, it appears that there was no digging; rather, a plate that covered the space was lifted out of place,’ Katy Perry, commissioner of the Israel Prisons Service, told the Times of Israel. It is thought by the Shin Bet security service the prisoners were then picked up in a car once they emerged from the tunnel outside the prison, and that they used a mobile phone to coordinate the escape.
Four of the six escapees had been serving multiple life sentences, according to local media reports. A former Fatah party leader in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, Zakariya Zubeidi, aged 46, was among the six to escape. The other five were Palestinian Islamic Jihad members, named as Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, aged 26, Yaqoub Qassem, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, aged 49, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, aged 35, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, aged 46.
The six men were labelled ‘highly dangerous’ and three of them were labelled as ‘highly likely to escape’, according to the Israeli prison service, prior to the jailbreak.
According to reports, Gilboa prison’s blueprint had been made available to the public after being shared online. Israeli paper Haaretz reported that even if it had not been used in the escape, the publishing of the documents was a serious ‘security oversight’.
At the time of writing, the escapees are still at large. It has been anticipated that they will be heading to where their families are based in Jenin, where the Palestinian Authority reportedly has little control.
Head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Qadura Fares, called the escape a ‘victory against the Israeli security system’.
Some of the six escapees had been held in prison for their involvement in attacks on Israelis during the early 2000s in the Palestinian Intifada, while one was reportedly held under administrative detention without charge, which under international law, is considered illegal, Al Jazeera reports.
200 checkpoints have since been set up by Israeli police throughout Israel in a bid to find the six men, and soldiers have been checking identification documents of residents within the city of Jenin.
Israel’s public security minister, Omer Barlev, told The Guardian the escape was a result of ‘very precise planning’ and ‘very detailed’. He suspected the men had ‘external assistance’, but was confident they will ‘catch the fugitives’.
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