Israel prison escapees began digging tunnel ‘in December’

Soraya Ebrahimi

The National  /  September 16, 2021

Mahmud Ardah has claimed to be the architect of the scheme

Palestinian prisoners who broke out of a high-security Israeli jail this month began digging their escape tunnel in December, lawyers for two of the arrested escapees said on Wednesday.

Six inmates escaped from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6 after digging a tunnel under a sink in their cell and making their way to freedom.

Israeli security forces launched a large-scale hunt for the escapees in Israel and the occupied West Bank, and have since recaptured four of them.

Lawyers for two of those arrested, Mahmud Ardah and Yaqub Qadri, on Wednesday revealed details of their escape.

“Mahmud told me he started digging in December,” his lawyer, Roslan Mahajana, told AFP after visiting him in detention.

Ardah claimed to be the architect of the escape, saying he used spoons, plates and the handle of a kettle to dig the tunnel from his jail cell.

“They started questioning him after his arrest because they believe he was the one who planned and implemented the operation,” said the lawyer.

Qadri’s lawyer gave a similar account of their escape.

“Mr Qadri told me that this process started on December 14 and that this is what he told the Israeli investigators,” Hanane Khatib said.

Ms Khatib said her client “was very happy despite his arrest because he was able to wander around for five days”.

She said the inmates had not planned to escape on September 6, but they rushed ahead with it because they feared guards had become suspicious.