image Inmates’ Ingenuity, Sleepy Sentries, Dig Dragnet. Photo: Flash90

Manhunt for 6 escaped terrorists underway

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered the bolstering of IDF troops along the national borders to prevent 6 escaped Palestinian security prisoners from fleeing the country.

By Erin Viner

In what senior-ranking police sources describe as “one of the most serious security breaches to have ever occurred in the country,” the group of dangerous felons tunneled out of the maximum-security Gilboa Prison in northern Israel yesterday. Israel Prison Services (IPS) Northern District Commander Arik Yaakov revealed that the inmates “made use of a flaw in the cell’s structure” to flee through a “gap” under one of the beds.

All of the escaped prisoners were serving life sentences for murderous attacks on Israelis. One was identified as Zakariya Zubeidi (45), a former commander of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The other 5 jailbreakers, all members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Iranian-proxy terror group, have been identified as Iham Kamamji (35), Monadal Infiat (26), Yakub Kadari (49) and brothers Mahmoud (46) and Mohammed Aradeh (39).

The manhunt includes hundreds of Israeli Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet), police, military and other elite operatives such as the National Counter Terror Unit with use of helicopters and drones.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on IDF troops to remain “particularly vigilant” until the fugitives have been captured.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev voiced concern that the Palestinian fugitives may be planning another terrorist attack against Israeli citizens. He also said that authorities are investigating if the prison break was carried out with “external assistance” due to the “very precise” and “very detailed” nature of the operation.

Gilboa Prison is located near the Sea of Galilee and is close in proximity to Jenin, where the ISA believes the felons are likely to seek refuge.

Palestinian terror groups predictably welcome the prison break.

The Islamist Hamas terror group issued a statement referring to the escape as “an act of heroism, of courage and victory of willpower.” The Gaza rulers demanded that all Palestinians provide the fugitives with “protection regardless of the sacrifices,” and threatened Israel with “dire consequences” if any were injured.

The PIJ hailed the incident as “a major heroic operation that shocked the Israeli security establishment,” adding that it represents “a big slap in the face” for Israel. The terror group declared that “the magnitude of the Israeli failure” was highlighted by the “timing between” prison escape and the murder of IDF Border Police Officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli in a point-blank shooting by a Palestinian gunman during a riot along the Gaza border on 21 August.