Six Gilboa prison escapees indicted

Already there is a high likelihood that the head of Gilboa Prison will be fired, and some have called for the firing of the IPS Chief Katy Perry.

 Gilboa Prison. What went wrong? (photo credit: FLASH90)
Gilboa Prison. What went wrong?
(photo credit: FLASH90)

The Northern District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment with the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Sunday against the six prisoners who broke out of Gilboa Prison on September 6.

One surprise was that the final charges filed did not contain some of the new terror-related ones that had been leaked to the media by police and security forces but focused solely on the actions of illegally fleeing confinement.

In addition, five others, including four current prisoners, were indicted for assisting with the prison break.

According to the indictment, some of the prisoners started plotting their escape toward the end of 2020, while others joined the conspiracy in March.

Of the six escapees, the most prominent was Zakaria Zubeidi, a Fatah commander who was responsible for multiple terrorist attacks and for killing many Israelis.

 A guard is seen at an observation tower along a wall of Gilboa Prison, from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) A guard is seen at an observation tower along a wall of Gilboa Prison, from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

The indictment said that Zubeidi was brought into the plot very late in the game, thinking that his contacts in the West Bank could help them hide once they escaped.

Munadil Nafayat, Iham Kahamji, Yaquob Qadiri and brothers Mahmoud and Mohammed al-Arida rounded out the rest of the escapees, all of whom were members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and from towns near Jenin.

The escape by the six men exposed a series of failures at the prison, including that the IPS failed to learn lessons from a previous escape attempt there, as well as several other major issues.

These include guards sleeping on the job, unmanned watchtowers due to a shortage of staff, and the sense of boldness security prisoners feel vis-à-vis the guards.

The six escapees and the five defendants who assisted them divided up the task of digging under a part of the shower floor, while others performed lookout functions or blocked other prisoners from entering the area.

Some escapees also took turns dropping off portions of what had been dug on a daily basis that would avoid raising suspicion.

Eventually, the tunnel they dug ran for 30 meters.

When the defendants escaped, they were carrying food, clothes to change into to avoid being easily identified as escaped prisoners, and IPS radios, to help them track prison service efforts to catch them.

One of the reasons they were eventually caught was the failure of one of their family members to come to pick them up with a getaway car to take them into the West Bank.

The failure of the Israel Prisons Service to prevent the breakout overshadowed the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and IDF success in recapturing them within two weeks and has led to an impending state commission of inquiry.

There is already a high likelihood that the head of Gilboa Prison will be fired, and some have called for the firing of the IPS Chief Katy Perry.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.