(JTA) — Six Palestinian men who were imprisoned in Israel on terrorism charges escaped from their high-security jail, apparently through a crawl space.
The men, five Islamic Jihad militants and the Fatah operative Zakaria Zubeidi, who is one of the best-known Palestinians convicted in Israel for terrorism, are the subject of a massive manhunt that began early Friday, hours after their escape was discovered.
Two civilians reported to police seeing several men running through a field at 2 a.m. on Monday near Gilboa prison, also known as Shatta Prison, in northeastern Israel. Police alerted the prison to the reports, prompting guards to conduct a head count through which the escape was discovered, Ynet reported.
Six men, belonging to two separate prison cells, were found to have escaped. Inside one of the cells, the guards discovered a hole that led to a crawl space under the floor tiles. Through the crawl space, the prisoners appear to have moved under the building, which is considered one of Israel’s best-guarded penitentiaries, and beyond its walls. They hammered their way above ground once they were outside the prison perimeter, according to Ynet.
The Israeli General Security Service, or Shin Bet, believe the men have made it into the West Bank, where they were born and where their families live.
The prison facility was completed in 2004 and houses 300 prisoners. Three of the prisoners were considered likely to attempt to escape. They are all serving life sentences and considered dangerous with intent to carry out terrorist attacks.
Zakaria Zubeidi, 45, was arrested in 2019 for shooting at Israelis in the West Bank. He has been in and out of Israeli prisons for most of his life, including a sentence for his supervision of a terrorist attack in 2002 in the city of Beit She’an in which six people died. An eloquent interviewee with excellent Hebrew, Zubeidi has given Israeli media many interviews that have made him a well-known personality both there and in the West Bank and Gaza. Many consider Zubeidi a symbol of the Second Intifada.
Iham Kamamji, 35, was convicted of murder in 2006. He killed Eliyahu Asheri, an Israeli 18-year-old, who asked Kamamji for a ride neat the West Bank settlement of Ofra. Kamamji buried Asheri’s body. He was also planning to carry out a suicide attack, as per his conviction.
Yakub Kadari, 49, was convicted of planning several attacks on Israelis. He was sentenced to 35 years in jail in 2003.
Mahmoud Aradeh, 46, and Mohammed Aradeh, 39, have been in jail since 1996 and 2002 respectively for similar offenses. Monadal Infiat, 26, was convicted two years ago of belonging to the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.
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