Israeli troops launched a major manhunt on Monday in northern Israel and the occupied west coast after six Palestinian prisoners fled overnight from high-security facilities in a very rare breakout.
Authorities said they were building obstacles and patrol the area. Israeli Army Radio also said that 400 prisoners were being moved as protective measures against additional escape attempts. According to radio, prisoners fled through a tunnel from Gilboa Prison, which is believed to be one of Israel’s safest facilities. The man reportedly received external assistance.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called this a “serious incident” and required the utmost efforts by various Israeli security departments.
He said he was constantly informed about the prison break that took place hours before Israel celebrated the Jewish New Year. Authorities clearly did not believe that fleeing prisoners threatened the general public and were not instructed to change their daily lives.
The fugitives were believed to have had little control over the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority and headed for Genin, who had openly clashed with Israeli troops in recent weeks. An Israeli helicopter was seen flying over Genin on Monday morning.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which represents both former and current prisoners, has identified men between the ages of 26 and 49. Among them is Zacharia’s Baidi, 46, who has been detained since 2019. Zubaidi was the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a member of the Fatah movement, during the second Palestinian uprising more than 20 years ago.
The other four prisoners were sentenced to life imprisonment, the group of prisoners said.
Photos in the Israeli media show what is believed to be the end of the escape tunnel. One image shows an Israeli guard in a black T-shirt examining a hole in the ground.
Palestinian militant groups quickly praised the breakout.
“This is a great heroic act that will have a serious impact on the Israeli security system and will have a serious impact on the Israeli army and the entire system,” said Islamic Jihad spokesman Daudshehab.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum also called for escape, “demonstrating that the struggle for freedom with the occupiers is ongoing and expanding within the prison, and going out to elicit this right. Please give me.”