By Emmanuel Nduka
Six Palestinian prisoners on Monday broke out of a high-security prison in Northern Israel, officials said.
According to reports, the prisoners escaped from the Gilboa prison, which is supposed to be one of Israel’s most secured facilities.
“It’s one of the highest-security jails in Israel and houses Palestinians convicted or suspected of anti-Israeli activities, including deadly attacks,” Al Jazeera reported.
The six men who shared the same prison cell, reportedly escaped through a tunnel, with help from outside. “The tunnel appeared to have been dug from below a toilet in the cell, from which the prisoners crawled their way out of the facility,” the report added.
Meanwhile, Israeli Police and military forces have started a search, with sniffer dogs deployed and “checkpoints set up in the area surrounding Gilboa.”
An Israeli police spokesman informed that security forces believed the fugitives might try to reach the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule; or the Jordanian border some 14 km (9 miles) to the east.
“Fve of the fugitives belong to the Islamic Jihad movement and one is a former commander of an armed group affiliated with the mainstream Fatah party,” he said.
According to The Times of Israel, five out of the six escapees were serving life sentences in connection with deadly attacks against Israelis, while one was on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder.
In the meantime, several Palestinian factions have hailed the jailbreak, one of which is Hamas, the group that controls the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, which called the escape a “real defeat” for Israel’s security system.
“This great victory proves again that the will and determination of our brave soldiers inside the prisons of the enemy cannot be defeated,” Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, told Al Jazeera.
But, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a statement called the escape “a grave incident”, adding that he was receiving regular updates about the search.