Six Palestinian prisoners escape Israel's high-security jail

Authorities have launched a manhunt and set up roadblocks to stop the men reaching the nearby occupied West Bank or Jordan, which is about 14 km from the prison

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Representative image
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IANS

Six Palestinian prisoners including a former leader of the militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade escaped from one of the Israel's 'most' secure jails.

The men are believed to have dug a hole in the floor of their cell at Gilboa prison, a high-security facility in northern Israel known as "The Safe", then crawled through a cavity and tunnelled beneath the outer wall, the BBC reported.

Officials were alerted by farmers who noticed them running through fields.

Authorities have launched a manhunt and set up roadblocks to stop the men reaching the nearby occupied West Bank or Jordan, which is about 14 km from the prison.

The fugitives include Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of the Palestinian militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in the West Bank city of Jenin, as well as five members of Islamic Jihad.

Zubeidi was arrested by Israeli forces in 2019 on suspicion of involvement in a number of shooting attacks and is currently standing trial.

Four of the Islamic Jihad members were serving life sentences after being convicted of planning or carrying out attacks that killed Israelis, while the fifth had been held 'without charge' for two years under an administrative detention order, according to Israeli media.

An official termed the escape as "a major security and intelligence failure", while the Palestinian militant groups hailed it as "heroic".

The alarm was raised at the prison after local farmers reported to the authorities about "suspicious figures" in nearby agricultural fields.

Later on headcount, prison staff found six inmates were missing.


The fugitives are believed to have made their way out of the cell that they shared by digging a hole in the floor of their bathroom.

Local media reported that they had used a rusty spoon that they hid behind a poster.

The hole led to a hollow space underneath the prison that was created during the facility's construction, when piles were sunk into the ground.

The inmates are believed to have moved through the space to reach the prison's outer wall, then dug a tunnel that emerged in the middle of a dirt road just outside.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev and "emphasised that this is a grave incident that requires an across-the-board effort by the security forces" to find the fugitives.

Islamic Jihad described the jailbreak as "heroic" and said it would "shock the Israeli defence system", while Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was a "great victory" that proves "the will and determination of our brave soldiers inside the prisons of the enemy cannot be defeated".

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