WHY WE DID IT: Israeli Prison fugitives reveal their thinking behind the escape

The six terrorists planned to commit terror attacks if they didn’t get protective custody in the Palestinian Authority.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The interrogations of the six Palestinians who were caught after escaping from Gilboa Prison in September revealed their motivations and plans, including possibly executing terror attacks, Kan News reported Tuesday.

Yakub Qadri told detectives upon being found in Nazareth five days after the escape that the group’s original plan was to get to the refugee camp in Jenin, which is in Palestinian Authority (PA) territory. There, Zakaria Zubeidi, the lone Fatah member among them, who had headed the Jenin branch of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, was supposed to use his connections in the PA to arrange for them all to receive “protective custody.”

If the attempt failed, however, he said that the prisoners expressed their willingness to carry out terror attacks against Israeli civilians or the IDF and die as shahids (martyrs).

Reporter Carmel Dangor noted that they had made no concrete or detailed plan for such attacks, and that they were not indicted on any security charges, just for escaping lawful custody.

Zubeidi told his interrogator that he jumped at the chance to escape when told of the plan some two months earlier by one of the tunnelers. “Who wouldn’t?” he said. He was in a different wing of the prison at the time and received permission to move into the crucial cell just a day before the group fled.

When asked why he was chosen to join (all the others are members of a rival terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad), he answered, “Because I am a respected person with a good reputation. Maybe they thought to turn themselves into the PA, and I, if I get out of the prison, I’m going straight to the PA.”

“I get a salary from the Palestinian Authority, I’m employed there,” said the terrorist who is a symbol to Palestinians of the 2000-2005 Second Intifada, when he carried out a series of terror crimes, including murder.

The PA pays prisoners in Israeli jails on a sliding scale to reward them for their terror activities in a program dubbed “Pay for Slay.” On average, they get paid several times the normal Palestinian salary.

Mahmoud Aradeh, in jail since 1996 and the mastermind behind the breakout told his interrogators that he only started working on the escape last December because the prisoners stopped getting some of their privileges, although he didn’t specify which.

“I know for 15 years that under the showers in all cells the floor is weak and you can dig a tunnel, but I did nothing because our situation was good,” he said. “There was university, good food, visits and cell phones, and the politicians did not interfere in the lives of prisoners. Only when conditions worsened did I start thinking about escaping. They always say that every Jewish politician has to punish the prisoners to get elected to the Knesset.”

In December the unity government between the Likud and Blue and White parties fell due to the failure to pass a budget and the fourth round of Israeli elections in two years ensued three months later.

He said he did not fear being caught digging the escape tunnel.

“What would they do to me? Punish me for another several years? I’ve got a life sentence anyway. I have nothing to lose,” Aradeh said.