Israeli forces launched a manhunt on Monday after six Palestinian prisoners pulled off a rare escape from a high-security facility, The Associated Press reports.
Israeli’s Army Radio said the prisoners escaped through a tunnel from the Gilboa prison, which is just north of the West Bank, according to AP.
The prisoners were believed to be headed for Jenin, where the Palestinian authority has little control and where militants have clashed with Israeli forces in recent weeks.
A photo released by Israeli officials showed a narrow hole in the floor of a cell. Israeli security forces were seen examining a similar hole on gravel just outside of the prison’s walls.
The Palestinian Prisoner’s club said the men ranged from 26 to 49 years old. Among them was 46-year-old Zakari Zubedid, who was a leader in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and had been detained since 2019, according to AP.
Israeli Prime Minister Nafgali Bennett called prison escape a “grave incident” that required maximum effort from the nation’s security banches, AP reported.
Israeli officials said 400 prisoners were being moved as a precaution. Roadblocks had been erected and officials are patrolling the area.
Many Palestinians praised the escape on social media posts. The escape was also praised by Palestinian militant groups.
Daoud Shehab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, hailed the escape as a “great heroic act,” according to AP.
“This is a great heroic act, which will cause a severe shock to the Israeli security system and will constitute a severe blow to the army and the entire system in Israel,” Shebab said.
The incident occurred just before Israel marks the Jewish New Year, when Israelis go to the north to celebrate the holiday, AP noted.