Captured terrorist fugitives indicted, this is how they escaped Israeli prison

The captured fugitives will not be charged with security or terrorism offenses, only for escaping from lawful custody or aiding in the escape.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prosecutors indicted Sunday the six terrorists who escaped from Gilboa Prison in September and were then recaptured, along with their five accomplices.

The indictment against the fugitives, filed in the Magistrate’s Court in Nazareth, was solely for escaping lawful custody, and did not include terrorism or other security charges.

This would limit their sentence to a maximum of seven additional years in prison.

The five fellow prisoners who helped them by acting as lookouts during the tunneling and/or helping get rid of the incriminating dirt that was being dug up, are similarly charged with aiding the escape but nothing further. The maximum sentence they could receive would be the same, seven years.

The police interrogation of the fugitives has revealed that the mastermind behind the escape was Mahmoud Aradeh, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist who is serving a life-plus-15-years sentence since murdering Israeli soldiers in the 1990s.

In December 2020 he and his fellow PIJ cellmates, Yakub Qadri, Iham Kamamji, and Monadel Infiat, began digging under a marble slab they removed from the floor of their shower. In March, Aradeh invited his cousin Mohammed to join them.

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The prisoners first had to get through a steel netting 5 mm thick, then 20 cm (eight inches) of concrete before getting to empty space around the sewage system. Investigators wrote that “concrete can be weakened and crumbled over time by using various acids, without the use of special means,” including in their possible acids “a cola drink.” The netting could be cut, they said, “with the help of an improvised nail file over time.”

The men then had to tunnel for an additional 29 meters (100 feet) to get beyond the prison walls. Towards the end of the job, they offered a senior Fatah terrorist, Zakaria Zubeidi, the chance to escape with them, although the two terrorist groups are rivals.

This, so that Zubeidi could use his ties with the Palestinian Authority, which was their destination, to protect them from the Israeli authorities.

Zubeidi’s request to be moved to their cell was approved, although this reportedly should have lit warning lights for prison officials. The day after he moved in, the men escaped successfully to the village of Na’ura, where they split up into three pairs. 

Although they repeatedly asked for food and transportation aid from Arab citizens while on the run, they were rebuffed. Four of the men were caught five days later, and the last pair was captured a week after that.