6 Palestinian prisoners escape from high-security facility in Israel by digging out tunnel with ‘spoons’

It is being called one of the biggest prison breaks of all time and an embarrassment for Israeli security.

Israel has launched a manhunt after six Palestinian prisoners tunnelled out of their cell and escaped from one of the country’s high-security facilities overnight.

According to AP, the fugitives managed to escape the Gilboa prison, which holds Palestinians convicted or suspected of anti-Israeli activities. The men dug a hole with the help of rusty spoons in the floor of their cell, then crawled through a cavity and tunnelled beneath the outer wall.

“Overnight, we received a number of reports about suspicious figures in agricultural fields and from the prison service, which discovered very quickly that prisoners were missing from their cells and that six escaped,” police spokesman Eli Levy told Israeli Kan Radio.

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Police and journalists gather around a hole used by six Palestinians to escape from the Gilboa Prison [Jalaa Marey/AFP] (AFP)

Police, soldiers, and agents from Israel’s powerful internal security agency Shin Bet joined the search effort, officials said. Sniffer dogs were deployed and checkpoints set up in the area surrounding Gilboa.

The army said its forces were “prepared and deployed” in the occupied West Bank as part of the operation.

Israel’s Army Radio said 400 prisoners are being moved as a protective measure against any additional escape attempts. The radio said the prisoners escaped through a tunnel from the Gilboa prison, just north of the West Bank, which is supposed to be one of Israel’s most secure facilities.

The prisoners included Zakariye Zubeidi, 46, a former Fatah party leader in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, as well as five Palestinian Islamic Jihad members serving life sentences for involvement in attacks on Israelis during the Palestinian Intifada – or uprising – in the early 2000s.

The other detainees were identified as: Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, 26, Yaqoub Qassem, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 46. At least four men were serving life sentences, according to local media reports.

Palestinian prisoners are believed to use smuggled cellphones to communicate with people outside, and the escapees may have arranged for a getaway vehicle.

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