'Highly Likely' That Palestinian Prison Escapees Crossed Into Jordan, Says Police Source

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Israeli authorities continue their search effort for the escaped prisoners, in northern Israel, on Monday.
Israeli authorities continue their search effort for the escaped prisoners, in northern Israel, on Monday.Credit: Gil Eliahu

It is "highly likely" that the six high-risk security prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison overnight have crossed into Jordan, a police official said Tuesday.

>> Click here for the latest updates on the Palestinian jailbreak 

Defense officials said that considering the time that has elapsed since the escape, it is possible that some of the prisoners have crossed the Green Line into the West Bank, but there is no indication yet that they passed into Jordan.

On Tuesday, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions in Gaza warned against what they defined as "retaliatory measures" against Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons following the escape. 

In a press conference, faction representatives said that messages coming from Israel indicate harassment of security prisoners, as well as searches and transfers to solitary confinement. 

Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said any attempt by Israel to harm the escaped prisoners would be met with a response. He also called on Palestinians to house and protect the escapees.

The prison is assisting Israeli security officials in their investigation, but so far there is no confirmation that other prisoners assisted the six in escaping.

Over 24 hours have passed since the six escaped from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, and despite expansive search efforts by the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service, no progress has been made. 

An initial probe Monday revealed that the escapees first left by foot and were later picked up by a car 3 kilometers from the prison. It remains unclear whether the car picked up all six prisoners or just a few of them.

Officials are concerned that the six escaped may try to carry out kidnappings or attacks and have bolstered police and military forces in the region and along the separation barrier in the north of the country.

The police have stated that they will be on continuous alert for the next two weeks, diverting other resources and personnel to the manhunt. Officers will be on call until at least after the Sukkot holiday, assuming the prisoners are found, but if not, they may be on stand by for longer. "A lot of patience will be required here," said a police official.

The police have established 89 checkpoints mainly in the north of Israel, extending into the Beit She'an region and the Jordan Valley, which the prisoners fled in the direction of.

Officials are concerned that operations in the West Bank city of Jenin, where the prisoners are from, may lead to clashes between Palestinians and security forces.

Police, military and Shin Bet forces have been deployed across the country and some 200 roadblocks have been erected to find the escapees. The defense establishment is focusing most of its search efforts in the Beit She'an area in the north after two suspects were spotted on security cameras.  

Three of them were previously deemed a high flight risk, while all of them have either been accused or convicted of partaking in terror activities. Among the runaways is Zakaria Zubeidi, the former leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and a Fatah activist, who was accused of perpetrating a 2002 attack at the Likud party office which killed six people.

Officials at the Israel Prison Service say the inmates escaped around 1:30 A.M. They were first noticed by a local cab driver at 1:49 A.M, who spotted them at a gas station near the prison and called the police. A dispatched unit arrived at the location less than ten minutes later and started inspecting the area and interviewing gas station employees.

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