Hamas commander accused of spying for Israel escapes from Gaza prison

Abed al-Karim Abu Odeh, 35, was arrested by Hamas in 2019 on suspicion of mapping underground tunnels for Israel.

Masked gunmen from the Qassam brigade, the military wing of Hamas, attend the funeral of Mazen Faqha in Gaza City, Saturday, March, 25, 2017.  (photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)
Masked gunmen from the Qassam brigade, the military wing of Hamas, attend the funeral of Mazen Faqha in Gaza City, Saturday, March, 25, 2017.
(photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

A former Hamas military commander who was accused of spying for Israel has escaped from a maximum-security prison in the Gaza Strip.

The fugitive, Abed al-Karim Abu Odeh, 35, was arrested by Hamas in 2019 on suspicion of mapping underground tunnels with a tracking device he allegedly received from his Israeli handlers.

It was not clear how Abu Odeh, who was being held in the Ansar Prison in the Gaza Strip, managed to escape.

The rare escape is seen by many Palestinians as a severe embarrassment for Hamas.

Hamas has arrested a number of suspects on suspicion of helping Abu Odeh, according to a Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip.

An illustrated map shows where the Hamas 'Metro' system went through in the Gaza Strip and which areas were destroyed by the IDF. (credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)An illustrated map shows where the Hamas 'Metro' system went through in the Gaza Strip and which areas were destroyed by the IDF. (credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

Hamas officials described Abu Odeh as an “extremely dangerous security prisoner” and offered a reward for information leading to his capture.

The officials said they did not rule out the possibility that Abu Odeh, who was a top commander of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, the “military” wing of Hamas, would try to cross the border into Israel.

Hamas set up checkpoints and deployed dozens of security officers in several parts of the Gaza Strip, especially near the border with Israel, in an attempt to prevent Abu Odeh from leaving the coastal enclave.

Hamas also warned fishermen in the Gaza Strip not to help Abu Odeh.

Eyad al-Bozm, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior, said Abu Odeh had escaped from prison on Saturday morning. “The [Hamas] security forces are taking measures to reapprehend him,” he added without elaborating.

On Saturday night, Hamas security officers raided the home of Abu Odeh and arrested some of his family members, while searching the house and damaging furniture, sources in the Gaza Strip said.