Days of Palestine - Jerusalem
Israeli occupation forces have launched a massive manhunt for six Palestinian prisoners after they managed to break out of a high-security prison in northern Israel (1948 occupied Palestine).
Several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, hailed the jailbreak.
According to the Hebrew media, the prisoners escaped from Gilboa jail in the predawn hours of Monday morning through a tunnel they might have been digging for months or years under the detention facility.
The Israel prison service said the breakout occurred around 1:30 am on Monday, but the incident was not detected by security forces until hours later.
Israeli jailers and security officers did not rule the possibility that the escapees received outside help, communicating with people through a cellphone they smuggled into their cell.
A large number of Israeli police, intelligence, and military personnel started a search operation across Israel and the West Bank a few hours after the escape from Gilboa prison, which lies between the Galilee sea and Jenin.
Zakaria Zubeidi, a commander of the Fatah Movement’s disbanded armed wing, is one of the escapees. The other five are all reported to be members of the Islamic Jihad Movement.
Four of the men were serving life sentences, according to Palestinian news reports.
Gilboa prison — about four kilometers away from the boundary with the occupied West Bank — is one of the highest-security jails in Israel and houses Palestinians suspected of carrying out resistance operations against the occupation.
An Israeli police spokesperson said the prisoners might try to reach the West Bank as a prelude to entering Jordan.
Some Israeli security and military officers described the situation as extremely dangerous, voicing fears that the escapees could plan to carry out an operation against Israelis.
Meanwhile, Israeli military and security forces have been deployed in large numbers on the border with Jordan, whose forces are also said to have been put on high alert along the border with the West Bank.
Preparations also started to send the other Palestinian prisoners at Gilboa jail to other detention facilities as a precautionary measure, according to the Israeli prison service.