Ex-Palestinian militant commander Zakaria Zubeidi, others escape prison

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Ex-Palestinian militant commander Zakaria Zubeidi, others escape prison

Six Palestinian inmates, including a terror group’s former commander, escaped from a high-security prison in Israel through a tunnel they dug from their cell, sparking a massive manhunt Monday, officials said.

Police and military officials put up roadblocks and launched searches for the prisoners following the overnight breakout at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, Reuters reported.

Video showed Israeli officials inspecting the tunnel at the lockup where the escaped prisoners — five members of the Islamic Jihad movement plus the former commander for the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — were held.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club identified the men as ranging in age from 26 to 49 years old and included Zakaria Zubeidi, a 46-year-old leader in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade who had been imprisoned since 2019. Four of the other escapees were serving life sentences, according to the group.

Zakaria Zubeidi was one of the six high-security prisoners to escape in the September 6, 2021 prison break in Israel.
Zakaria Zubeidi was one of the six high-security prisoners to escape in the September 6, 2021 prison break in Israel.
REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Zakaria Zubeidi was the commander of Palestine militants who would carry out attacks against Israelis during the country's presidential election in 2000.
Zakaria Zubeidi was the commander of Palestine militants who would carry out attacks against Israelis during the country’s presidential election in 2000.
AP Photo/Nasser Nasser
Israeli authorities suspect that the escaped convicts could be heading to the West Bank, which is about 9 miles from the prison.
Israeli authorities suspect that the escaped convicts could be heading to the West Bank, which is about 9 miles from the prison.
REUTERS/ Gil Eliyahu
Israeli security personnel stand together outside the walls of Gilboa prison
Israeli security personnel stand together outside the walls of Gilboa prison
REUTERS/ Gil Eliyahu

The facility, roughly 2 miles away from the West Bank border, is known as one of Israel’s most secure prisons and houses Palestinians convicted or accused of deadly attacks.

Zubeidi was a former commander whose militants carried out attacks against Israelis during the second Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, Reuters reported.

The other detainees were identified as Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, 26, Yaqoub Qassem, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 46, according to Al Jazeera, citing local reports.

 An Israeli soldier stands guard near a security fence in the West Bank town of Jenin.
An Israeli soldier stands guard near a security fence in the West Bank town of Jenin.
Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/Sipa USA
Israeli authorities inspecting ID's after six high-security convicts managed to break out of prison.
Israeli authorities inspecting ID’s after six high-security convicts managed to break out of prison.
JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images
The tunnel that the escaped prisoners used to escape the high-security Gilboa prison on September 6, 2021.
The tunnel that the escaped prisoners used to escape the high-security Gilboa prison on September 6, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images
Police and military officials put up roadblocks and launched searches for the prisoners following the overnight breakout.
Police and military officials put up roadblocks and launched searches for the prisoners following the overnight breakout.
EPA/ATEF SAFADI

The prisoners, who likely shared the same cell, appeared to have some outside help with the tunnel that was dug beneath a toilet, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, characterized the escape as a “grave incident” and vowed an “across-the-board” effort to get the prisoners back in custody following the escape just hours before the country was set to mark the Jewish New Year.

a tunnel dug beneath a sink at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021 that allowed six prisoners to escape.
a tunnel dug beneath a sink at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021 that allowed six prisoners to escape.
AFP via Getty Images

Security forces suspect the escaped prisoners may try to reach the West Bank or the Jordanian border some 9 miles away, Reuters reported.

Palestinian militant groups hailed the escape from one of Israeli’s most fortified prisons.

“This is a great heroic act, which will cause a severe shock to the Israeli security system and will constitute a severe blow to the army and the entire system in Israel,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Dauod Shebab said.

A spokesman for Hamas said the breakout shows that the “will and determination” of its brave soldiers “cannot be defeated,” Reuters reported.

Authorities do not suspect that the escaped prisoners pose a threat to the general public, Bennett said.

Police commander Shimon Ben Shabo said forces were ready Monday and “available to arrive at any location” in response to sightings of the prisoners as Israeli helicopters flew Monday over Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank

With Post Wires

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