Six Palestinians escaped from a maximum-security prison last year by digging a tunnel, sparking a massive manhunt.
An Israeli court has sentenced six Palestinian prison escapees to five years in prison for tunneling out of their cells and escaping a maximum-security facility last year in what became Israel’s biggest jail break in decades.
The daring prison break sparked a massive manhunt in northern Israel and the occupied West Bank as Israeli forces attempted to recapture the men, who were members of Palestinian armed groups.
The courageous escape dominated news broadcasts, sparking heavy criticism of the Israeli prison service and prompting the Israeli government to launch an investigation.
The escapees were recaptured days later.
A judge ruled Sunday that the six’s sentencing took into account the fact that the prison break had paralyzed Israel for days, the financial cost involved in recapturing the refugees and the damage to public safety caused by the life sentence Prisoners was caused by serious crimes, escape.
The five-year sentences are added to the sentences the prisoners are already serving.
Five other inmates accused of helping the men escape were sentenced to four more years in prison.
According to various reports, the fugitives dug a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell with kitchen utensils for several months undetected. They then managed to slip past a sleeping prison guard after exiting through a hole outside the prison facility.israpri
An artist works on a mural glorifying six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel’s Gilboa prison with the help of the Humble Spoon in September 2021 [Mahmud Hams/AFP]
Israel considers all six refugees “terrorists”. Palestinians regard many prisoners held by Israel as heroes of their national cause, and many took to social media to celebrate their escape and staged demonstrations in support of the escaped prisoners.
Five of the refugees belong to the Islamic Jihad armed group, and four of them are serving life sentences. The sixth refugee, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a member of the secular Fatah group of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Zubeidi was a leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and was well known in Israel for both his activities and his love of giving media interviews.