Six Palestinian prisoners, who were being held in the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, managed to escape overnight by digging a tunnel in their cell that led out of the prison complex, multiple news reports stated on Monday, September 6. The six prisoners were identified as Zakaria Zubeidi, 46, Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, 26, Yaqoub Qassem, 39, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 46. Local news reported that at least four of the prisoners were serving life sentences. Palestinians from various walks of society hailed the prisoners’ escape, with many calling it heroic and a blow against the Israeli military.
Israeli prison authorities later said that they did not detect the escape until 4 am on Monday during a daily headcount. According to the authorities, the prisoners had dug a hole below a toilet in their shared cell. The other end of the tunnel was situated a few meters away from the prison walls and was covered with weeds. Following the escape, prison authorities evacuated the remaining 400 or so prisoners and transferred them to other prisons.
According to reports, one of the prisoners, Zubeidi, was a former commander of the Fatah party’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades based in Jenin. The other five prisoners were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance group. Four of them were serving life sentences for alleged attacks on Israeli citizens and have been in prison since the mid 90s and early 2000s. Zubeidi and Nafe’at, were arrested in 2019 and were awaiting trial.
Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, an organization which works for the advancement of prisoners’ rights, said, “We are happy with this escape. We have called a lot for the necessity of liberating all Palestinian prisoners. If the prisoners can free themselves, this is a great thing,” Al Jazeera reported.
Fawzi Barhum, spokesperson for Hamas, hailed the escape, saying, “This is a victory for the will and determination of our heroic prisoners, and a real challenge to the Zionist security system, which the occupation boasts as being the best in the world. Zionist enemy has never and will never win, no matter how much power it possesses. The struggle for freedom from the occupier continues.” Islamic Jihad in a statement termed the escape an “utter failure for the occupation army” and “a strong slap to the Israeli military and the whole Israeli system.”