As Sand From Digging a Tunnel 'Clogged Up the Entire Prison,' Palestinian Inmates Decided to Escape Earlier

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The entrance from the tunnel outside the prison, in August.
The entrance from the tunnel outside the prison, in August.Credit: Gil Eliahu

The group of Palestinian prisoners that escaped Israel's Gilboa Prison two weeks ago did so earlier than they had planned, as sand from the tunnel they were digging began blocking prison pipes and they feared they would be discovered, according to their investigation this week after bring recaptured.

The six prisoners who were afraid that they would be caught when the sand they tried to hide in the drainage pipes started causing a suspiciously large number of clogs.

"It reached a point where the entire prison was clogged up because of the mud in the drains, and people turned on a tap and sand came out," a senior official with knowledge of the investigation told Haaretz.

The increased blockages in the pipes led the prisoners to move up the date of their escape, the official said. The police say the prisoners were aiming for a holiday, assuming less prison guards and police would be on duty.

The prisoners told investigators that they increasingly feared that one of the guards had discovered their plans, leading them to move the date.

The escape was originally planned for Yom Kippur – marked last week, then September 7, and finally a day earlier, said the official. Two of the prisoners said they were supposed to receive help on the outside following the escape, but this was unsuccessful due to the date change.

Belongings of the prisoners found by soldiers near Nazareth.Credit:

The lawyer for one of the prisoners said that after the escape they tried to make contact with a man to help them, but he refused. As a result, the six divided up into pairs and went their separate ways.

The investigation found that during the past six months, the sand was blocking the pipes so much that a sewage truck was called sometimes even twice a month to unclog the pipes. Other prisoners were suspicious of this and informed one of the guards, but their concerns were dismissed.

It is suspected that after the escape, the guard in question asked the prisoners not to tell investigators that they had raised concerns. As a result, the guard was questioned on suspicion of obstruction of justice, but he denied the accusations and was released, though told to stay home for a week.

Iham Kamamji's detention extension in Nazareth, yesterday.Credit: Amir Levy

After two of the prisoners, Iham Kamamji and Monadal Infiat, were recaptured on Sunday, Kamamji told his lawyer that the two were almost recaptured two days after they escaped. The lawyer, who met with Kamamji after he was recaptured, said soldiers nearly captured them when, almost two weeks ago, they heard noise from their hiding place and fired into the area. In the end, the soldiers only found some of the prisoner’s belongings but not the prisoners themselves.

The two split up after that; Kamamji entered Palestinian Authority territory through a slit in the separation fence sear Salem, through which Palestinian workers often enter Israel, while Infiat entered the West Bank a few days later and was filmed by Israeli security cameras, said the lawyer. The two reunited at a pre—arranged meeting place and remained in the Jenin area.

The preliminary investigation discovered that the two fugitives struggled to find a hiding place in Jenin, so they hid in a relative’s house. The location of the house, which was relatively exposed, made it easier for security forces to capture them. Security officials still do not know whether the two prisoners intentionally chose a place that left them exposed because they wanted to avoid a violent capture in case they were caught. Weapons were not found in the house where they were arrested.

Police forces were instructed to catch them alive and avoid shooting them. During their arrest, an exchange of fire broke out between Palestinians and the IDF and police. Three Palestinians were reported as being lightly wounded. No Israeli soldiers were injured.

The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court extended the detention of the two fugitives on Sunday evening. Earlier that day the detention was extended for the four other prisoners who were recaptured a few days prior.

Yaniv Kubovich and Adi Hashmonai contributed to this report.

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