Israel police are holding a manhunt for six prisoners who escaped from a high-security prison in the north of the country last night.
The six had dug a tunnel under a sink in a Gilboa prison cell near the West Bank border. They would have received outside help. Such an escape, especially from one of the most secure prisons in the country, is rare.
The footage shows that it was a very tight tunnel that the six swung through:
Four out of six prisoners served life sentences for attacks on Israelis. One of the fugitives, Zakaria Zubeidi (46), is a former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Fatah movement.
The others are members of Islamic Jihad. There is no evidence that the men pose a danger to the population, authorities have not given instructions to citizens to stay home.
The police, in cooperation with the military, have launched a major search in Northern Israel and the West Bank. Dogs and helicopters are deployed and checkpoints are set up in the area. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the escape a “serious incident”. 400 other prisoners are relocated to other locations, fearing more escapes.
The men are expected to be on their way to the town of Jenin, in the West Bank. There, the Palestinian Authority, which formally governs the Bank, has little control. Palestinian militias have a strong presence, and are regularly fighting with Israeli security forces.
The men‘s escape was welcomed with cheers by Palestinian forces. A spokesman for Islamic Jihad called it a “great heroic action, a shock to the Israeli security system”. A Hamas spokesman said that “this action shows that the oppressor’s struggle for freedom continues.”