Israel extends detention of 4 Palestinians caught after jailbreak

Israeli forces in the street of the Old City of Jerusalem (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  September 12, 2021

The Israeli Magistrate’s Court in the northern Nazareth city has extended the detention of four Palestinian inmates, who had escaped from a high-security prison earlier this week, reported Anadolu Agency.

The Israeli General Prosecution had requested during a session held late Saturday to extend their detention for 13 days, but the court approved a 9-day extension, the state-owned KAN news TV reported.

Last week’s prison break had left Israel confounded, as six inmates dug their way out of the maximum security Gilboa prison and managed to escape without detection. Of the six, Israeli authorities have thus far re-arrested four of the inmates – members of Islamic Jihad  Mahmoud Aradeh and Yakub Kadari; Zakaria Zubeidi, commander of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Mohammed Aradeh , the younger brother of Mahmoud Aradeh.

Israeli police claim that the four Palestinians had allegedly planned to a carry out a “serious terrorist act”, a crime that is punishable to 15 years in prison, according to Haaretz newspaper. Israeli prosecutors also accuse the four of jailbreak and incitement for others to escape from prison, a felony that is punishable to 20 years.

The remaining two escapees have thus far evaded capture.

The jailbreak has been hailed as a “big victory” by Palestinians, while Israelis decried it as a major security and intelligence failure.

The six escapees dug the hole over a period of time with nothing but a rusty spoon, and hid the entrance point with a loose floorboard.

The six Palestinians left at around 1:00am local time, and emerged directly beneath the watch tower, where, according to security sources, the guard in the watch tower had fallen asleep.

The six men then continued on foot to a waiting vehicle, where some got in and others continued walking.

The alarm was initially raised by a citizen on Israel’s Route 71, who claimed to have seen figures running through fields, arousing suspicions of a prison break. Subsequent reports included that of one from a gas station attendant who had seen a strange man apparently passing through.

Three prisoners were reported missing by prison staff at around 03:30am, which was then increased to six unaccounted for at 4am.

The Gilboa prison break is believed to be Israel’s most successful instance of escaping a high security jail.