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Manhunt for Missing Palestinian Prisoners Continues Amid Fears of Escalating Violence

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)
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)

JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s military and police are on high alert after the Hamas terror group controlling Gaza called for a “day of rage” on Friday in solidarity with the six Palestinian prisoners who escaped one of Israel’s most secure detention facilities  

The terror group called on Palestinians to clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria - in protest of the sanctions imposed on security prisoners following the escape.

Meanwhile, the massive manhunt for the six fugitives continues.

“We will get our hands on the terrorist fugitives, we will correct the failures that led to the escapes — and if we find professional negligence, we will take care of that as well,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev told reporters on Thursday.

The six escapees are considered highly dangerous. Five are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group and one is a notorious Fatah terror leader. Four were serving life sentences for attacks against Israelis. 

The fugitives were locked up at Gilboa prison located near the Sea of Galilee. They escaped on Monday using a tunnel dug from the shower in their cell, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported on Thursday.

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, one watchtower guard slept through the incident while another watchtower overlooking the prison’s exit was unmanned. Prison officials reportedly missed signs of digging right under their noses, and Israel's security services are investigating whether prison staff helped the men escape.

The escape is one of the worst prison breaks in Israeli history, and triggered large-scale demonstrations among Palestinians who consider prisoners held in Israel to be heroes of their national cause. The demonstrations, some of them violent, took place in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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 placed on them 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.

Meanwhile, Israeli police have set up roadblocks in the West Bank and deployed drones, helicopters, and patrols in search of the men. Authorities 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.



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