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Hundreds Riot, Set Prisons on Fire as Israel Continues Manhunt for Escaped Inmates

09-08-2021
Israeli police clear protesters from the plaza in front of the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem's Old City, where dozens celebrated the escape of six Palestinian prisoners, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Israeli police clear protesters from the plaza in front of the Damascus Gate to Jerusalem's Old City, where dozens celebrated the escape of six Palestinian prisoners, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

JERUSALEM, Israel – Pressure is mounting on Israeli authorities to find six Palestinian prisoners who escaped on Monday from Gilboa prison, one of Israel’s most secure detention facilities located near the Sea of Galilee.

The massive manhunt entered its fourth day on Thursday and coincided with unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria.

Palestinians held large-scale demonstrations on Wednesday in solidarity with the six fugitives – five of whom are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group and one, a notorious Fatah terror leader. About 400 people rioted at eight West Bank flashpoints, starting fires and throwing rocks at Israeli troops, The Times of Israel reported.

In the Ramallah district, demonstrators reportedly used live fire against Israeli soldiers but missed.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, demonstrators clashed with Israeli police near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

Wednesday’s unrest also spread to Israeli prisons, where Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian factions appear to be working together in the wake of the escape. Violence was reported at several facilities and inmates started fires at two prisons in southern Israel in protest of new restrictions following the prison break. Both of those fires were brought under control.

An umbrella group representing prisoners from all Palestinian factions called on inmates to resist being relocated and to spark fires in their cells if guards try to move them. The group also threatened a widespread hunger strike.

Palestinians consider prisoners held in Israel to be heroes of their national cause and have celebrated Monday’s escape.

Israeli defense officials fear that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group located in the Gaza Strip may renew rocket fire from the enclave in solidarity, and spark a larger conflict. Hours after the escape, the terror group sent incendiary balloons into Israel in support of the fugitives.

The six escapees are considered highly dangerous. Four were serving life sentences for attacks against Israelis. They apparently escaped from Gilboa Prison through a tunnel.

Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israel's security services were reportedly investigating whether prison staff helped the men escape.

Israeli media reported several blunders by prison officials that contributed to the prison break. For example, the prison’s blueprint was available to the public online, the watchtower guard was asleep during the entire incident, and prison officials missed signs of digging right under their noses.

Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israeli police set up roadblocks in the West Bank and deployed drones, helicopters, and patrols in search of the men.  Israeli police also suspect the prisoners may have split up to evade capture and could be armed.

 The military beefed up troops along the Jordanian and Gaza border over fears the fugitives may try to sneak into the territories.

This is considered one of the worst prisoner escapes in Israeli history.

Israeli troops carry out checks on Palestinian laborers returning home after a days work in Israel who are trying to cross through a damaged section of the Israeli separation fence, in the West Bank village of Jalameh, near Jenin, Monday, Sept. 6 (AP)

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