Six Palestinians broke out of an Israeli prison on Monday through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, triggering a massive manhunt for the group that includes a prominent ex-militant.
The Israel Prison Service said an alert was sounded around 3 a.m. (0000 GMT) by locals who spotted “suspicious figures” outside the Gilboa prison in the country’s north.
The group includes Zakaria Zubeidi, a former militant leader from the flashpoint city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the IPS confirmed in a statement.
In footage that recalled the iconic 1994 prison escape film The Shawshank Redemption , the service released a video which showed agents inspecting a narrow tunnel beneath a sink and another showing a hole just outside the prison walls.
Gilboa — which opened in 2004 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising — is a high security site where hundreds of Palestinians are detained.
The prison service said all those held at Gilboa over “security offences” are being relocated in case additional escape tunnels have been dug beneath the facility.
Police, the army and agents from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency joined the search, which included aerial surveillance vehicles, officials said.
Sniffer dogs were deployed and checkpoints set up in the area surrounding Gilboa.
The Army had in particular deployed heavily at a crossing point from Israel to Jenin governorate, checking identities of all Palestinian workers seeking to cross, an AFP reporter said.
The Army said its forces were “prepared and deployed” in the West Bank as part of the operation.