Israel launched a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank early Monday after six Palestinian prisoners tunneled out of their cell and escaped from a high-security facility in the biggest prison break of its kind in decades.
Israeli officials said they have erected roadblocks and are conducting patrols in the area. It appeared to be the biggest Palestinian escape from an Israeli prison since 1987, when six Islamic Jihad militants broke out of a heavily guarded prison in Gaza months before the outbreak of the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israel.
Palestinians revere prisoners held by Israel as heroes of their national cause, and many praised the escape on social media. The escape poses a dilemma for the Palestinian Authority, which coordinates security with Israel and could face a backlash if they are recaptured. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called it a “grave incident” that required maximum effort by Israel’s various security branches.
Police commander Shimon Ben Shabo said officials have reinforced emergency response call centers in the area to respond to any reports about the prisoners and there are “forces available to arrive at any location.” The escapees are suspected of having headed back to their hometown of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, about a 25 kilometer (15-mile) drive away.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, which represents both former and current prisoners, identified the men as ranging in age from 26 to 49 years old. The other five prisoners were members of Islamic Jihad, and the prisoners’ group said four were serving life sentences.
ARTICLE: JENNIFER BARRETO-LEYVA
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WDRB.COM
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