Guard suspected of watching TV instead of cameras during jailbreak – report

The escape of six Palestinian security prisoners from a prison in northern Israel last week was filmed in real time by the facility’s security cameras, but no one was monitoring them at the time of the jailbreak, according to a report Monday.

The guard in the control room at the time is suspected of watching television and noticing neither the live feed of the six escaping nor the warning system that was activated, the Walla news site said.

Israeli security forces have recaptured four of the prisoners who broke out of the high-security Gilboa Prison last Monday, among them notorious Fatah terror commander Zakaria Zubeidi and reported mastermind Mahmoud al-Arida, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. The other four are also members of Islamic Jihad, including Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, who are still on the run.

The six fugitives made their escape by digging through the concrete and metal rebar flooring in their bathroom and removing a slab that led to a series of gaps in the prison’s structure. They used these to leave the compound underground and then tunneled their way up to a road on the south side of the facility.

Prison officials had been aware of this structural problem in the prison — that there are large gaps in the prison floors and walls that can be used for escape — since 2014, when the service foiled a nearly identical escape attempt by eight inmates, also members of Islamic Jihad.

According to Walla, guard dogs in the prison yard began barking as the prisoners started emerging from the tunnel outside the prison walls, activating a warning system in which the security cameras focus on the area where the dogs are barking.

Israeli security personnel gather outside the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

The prisoners reportedly remained around the hole for some 20 minutes before taking off on foot, though the guard in the control room did not notice the warning system as he was apparently watching television.

The report also said a few days before the escape, some inmates who assist with maintenance work reported sand in the sewage system and at least one commented to prison staff on finding sand in trash cans, but was told not to worry.

The Israel Prisons Service would not comment on the report, citing the ongoing police investigation.

In this photo provided by Israel’s Prisons Service, a hole in a floor is seen after six Palestinian prisoners escaped from the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (Israeli Prisons Service via AP)

The escape is considered to be one of the worst jailbreaks in Israel’s history and the prisons service has faced criticism in the wake of the incident, including calls for Commissioner Katy Perry to resign.

Perry, who entered the job in January, has pushed back against demands she step down and on Monday urged against jumping to conclusions before the commission of inquiry ordered by Public Security Minister Omer Barlev completed its work.

“I recommend letting the committee finish its work and finish its investigation” before making significant decisions, she told the Knesset Public Security Committee.

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