Sept. 6 (UPI) — Authorities in Israel said they are searching for six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from a high-security prison early Monday through the use of a tunnel.
Agents with various security agencies were participating in the manhunt that has roadblocks placed throughout the West Bank and security forces deploying dogs and aerial tools in the search, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The Israel Prison Service identified the fugitives of the northern Gilboa Prison as Mondal Ainfaat, Mahmad Aardiya, Muhammed Aardiya, Yakub Kadari and Iham Kamagi of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group and Zakaria Zubeidi of Fatah, which was formerly known as the Palestinian national Liberation Movement.
Authorities said the six men were cellmates who escaped through a tunnel that had been dug into the floor of their cell over a period of several months.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Public Security Minister Omer Barlev that the escape was “a serious event that required a comprehensive effort by all of the security services,” his office said in a statement.
The Shin Bet security agency said they believe the men had outside help with whom they communicated via a smuggled cellphone.
The office of Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he has ordered reinforcements to border crossings amid concerns the escapees may try to flee Israel, The Times of Israel reported.
The Islamic Jihad in a statement described the jail break as “heroic” while a Hamas spokesperson said the fugitives’ escape “proves the bravery of these prisoners.”
Shimon Lavi, the Israeli police northern district commander, said the tunnel was a “structural flaw” and the remaining 400 prisoners will be transferred to other prisons.