ISRAEL – In a scenario worthy of a Hollywood film ”, six Palestinians, including a former leader of an armed group, escaped this Monday, September 6 from a prison in Israel via a tunnel under a sink, triggering a vast manhunt.

As you can see in our video at the top of the article, Israeli prison services said an initial alarm was triggered at around 3:00 a.m. (midnight GMT) when residents claimed to have seen “suspicious people” around the building. Gilboa prison (north), where hundreds of Palestinians are imprisoned.

A tunnel under a large bathroom ceramic, at the foot of a sink, through which inmates escaped from this high-security prison has been discovered. Outside the prison, police located a hole in the ground.

The penitentiary services said they were in the process of relocating the approximately 400 prisoners from Gilboa held for “security crimes” to prevent their escaping through other tunnels that may have been dug.

This rare escape is reminiscent of the American film directed by Frank Darabont, Shawshank Redemption, in which a man escapes from prison through a tunnel he has spent years digging in secret.

This escape, which took Israel by surprise, comes as the country begins the Jewish holiday season, starting with the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, calling the escape “very serious”, assured that he was following the hunt for the fugitives in real time.

Israeli police have launched a massive manhunt and indicated at the end of the day that they are still trying to locate the fugitives, while rumors have been heard on social media and WhatsApp messages about the progress of the search.

Sniffer dogs are also at work and checkpoints have been set up around the prison. According to Israeli media, the escapees may have already returned to the occupied West Bank where, in some areas, security is theoretically controlled by Palestinian units.

The Israeli army has made aerial observation equipment available to the police and says it has prepared its troops to intervene if necessary in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

It was also deployed around Jenin (northern West Bank), where many of the escapees came from, an AFP journalist noted, reporting gunfire in the air in support of the fugitives.

“For the moment the situation is calm, but the surveillance is unprecedented,” Akram Rajoub, governor of the Jenin region, where some anticipate an offensive by the Israeli army, told AFP.

The Jenin refugee camp, which adjoins the city of the same name, is “used to incursions” by the Israeli army, even though it is located in an area under Palestinian control, Hassan al-Amouri, chief told AFP. of the local people’s committee. “Anything is possible,” he added of a possible Israeli offensive in this heavily armed camp.

The escapees were imprisoned for having, according to Israel, planned or carried out attacks against Israelis, like Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, imprisoned since 1996 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

This veteran of Israeli prisons is a known member of Islamic Jihad – one of the main Palestinian armed movements – who was placed in solitary confinement a few years ago after the discovery of tunnels dug in an Israeli penitentiary, according to Islamic Jihad.

One of the fugitives, Zakaria al-Zoubeidi, was the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He pledged in 2007 to lay down his arms in exchange for an agreement with Israel to remove him from its list of wanted Palestinians.

But the Israeli authorities later backed off the deal, with Israel’s internal security service saying he had been involved in “various attacks.” The man was arrested and jailed in 2019.

The Islamist movement Hamas, in power in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and the Islamic Jihad hailed this escape.

“It is a heroic and courageous act, a victory for the will and determination of our heroic prisoners, a real setback for the Zionist security system, which the occupation presents as the best in the world,” said Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman quoted in a statement.

According to the military, police also deployed checkpoints around the Gaza Strip on Monday to prevent fugitives from attempting to enter the territory under Israeli blockade but under Hamas control.

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