Prison Break Is First of Its Kind in Decades

Manhunt has been launched in Israel
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2021 12:37 AM CDT
6 Palestinian Prisoners Escape Israeli Jail
Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

For the first time in years, Palestinian prisoners have broken out of an Israeli jail. Six men escaped around 1am Monday, the New York Times reports. Five of them are Islamist militants, according to the prison service, while the sixth is said to be the former commander of another militant group. Four of them had been convicted of terrorism and had been sentenced to life behind bars. The other two were still undergoing legal proceedings, including Zakaria Zubeidi, the most well-known of the inmates, who had been one of the most-wanted fugitives in Israel before his arrest in 2019. They tunneled out of the high-security Gilboa facility, and are believed to have used smuggled cellphones to coordinate with outside helpers, the AP reports.

The Israeli Army and several government agencies launched a massive manhunt in northern Israel and the nearby occupied West Bank, but the men were still at large as of Monday night. It appears to be the largest such escape since 1987, and CNN calls this jailbreak a "significant embarrassment." But authorities don't appear to consider the men an immediate threat to the public. Meanwhile, some Palestinians, who consider prisoners detained in Israel heroes, celebrated the escape on social media, and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party praised it. The secular party is loosely associated with the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the militant group that Zubeidi, 46, once commanded. (More Israel stories.)

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