Israel steps up prison break search 

September 10, 2021 - 18:43

TEHRAN- Israeli security forces are expanding their massive search for six Palestinian men who escaped from the infamous high-security Gilboa prison.

The regime’s forces have flooded its troops in the occupied territories searching for escapees. 

Israel continued its search in settlements and the occupied West Bank. The army sent reinforcements to the West Bank, after placing it under "general closure", with much of the focus centered on Jenin, the home of prominent escapee Zakaria Zubeidi.

Palestinians, protesting in support of the prisoners in Hebron and other parts of the occupied territories have been met with vicious attacks by Israeli troops.

Israel has been accused of cracking down on other Palestinian prisoners following the prison break.

Rights groups have accused Tel Aviv of collective punishment after regime officials transferred hundreds of other inmates to other prisons in the backdrop of the prison break. They have called on the international community to ensure the safety of all Palestinian prisoners. Israel says those transferred are convicted or suspected of “anti-Israeli” activities with the regime fearing similar tunnels had been dug.

Palestinian detainees have lit fires at multiple prisons in recent days in response to Tel Aviv’s crackdown on other prisoners after the Israel Prison Service also suspended family visitation rights.

Resistance movements have warned Israel of dire consequences if any of the Palestinians that escaped are killed or the families of the escapees are further harassed or arrested. 

Palestinians regard all prisoners jailed by Israel as heroes in the wider struggle for statehood. Israel regards Palestinians involved in “anti-Israeli” activities as criminals and is concerned Monday's escape could ignite clashes in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, says the prisoners in Israeli detention are a red line, and that there will be no peace or stability without their release.

He says "Israel's continued violation of Palestinian rights and defiance of international legitimacy will not lead to any peace, but rather will contribute to the continuation of tension and instability in the region."

Meanwhile, an Israeli injunction is in effect prohibiting Israeli media from publishing any details of the jailbreak investigation after local media report on the scramble to recover from the embarrassing lapse.

Israel has announced a formal inquiry into lapses that enabled the six Palestinians to escape, as it pressed on with a manhunt for the escapees. 

Israeli Minister, Omer Bar-Lev, said in a statement that he and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had agreed to form a commission of inquiry led by a retired judge into the Gilboa prison incident. 

Touring another prison, Bar-Lev vowed, "to leave no stone unturned in order to find out what caused this failure".

Former prison service commissioner, Orit Adato, has admitted to reporters that the escape amounted to "a huge crisis" for the IPS. Adato said a key area of focus for the IPS should be the intelligence failure to uncover the escape plan early on. 

She says "the intelligence (personnel) inside prison didn't know anything, which is really a problem”.

The six Palestinian men escaped on Monday through a hole in the floor of a prison cell. The inmates, five of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad movement and one of the Fatah group, have either been convicted or are suspected of allegedly planning or carrying out attacks against Israelis. 

Four were serving life sentences after their conviction on charges of planning or carrying out attacks against Israeli settlers. Another man was held under a special detention order, and the sixth was awaiting a verdict in his trial.

They fled Israel’s heavily protected Gilboa prison through a tunnel dug beneath a sink in a cell, dealing a heavy blow to Israel’s purported security might.