Documentation of the terrorists’ escape from prison and Zabeidi’s investigations

Watch the full article from tonight’s news here 11

A little more than a month after the escape of the six terrorists from Gilboa Prison, in the evening news here 11 was published today (Monday) exclusive documentation from the security camera fixed in the prison wall, which managed to document the six prisoners coming out of the tunnel – and escaping free, but – the guards doze off. Just an hour and a half after the escape, IPS personnel were recorded scanning the scene with a flashlight.

The transcripts of Zakaria Zabeidi’s interrogations were also published, explaining why he was attached to the escape, and why he could not refuse a birdcage – the door to which was opened automatically. Zbeidi is the most prominent name among the escaped prisoners. Former commander of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, and one of the symbols of the second intifada.

Investigator: How did you know about the tunnel and the escape plan?
Zbeidi: About a month ago as Mamji (another escaped prisoner) came to visit my wing. He told me: ‘There is an escape.’ Did not say exactly where, nor with whom. He said: ‘Ask to move to Wing 2 as soon as possible’.

Investigator: Why did you agree to run away with them?
Zbeidi: Whoever is in jail and can go out, will not agree? Everyone will agree. The bird, you put it in a cage in the middle of the house, give food and water, but if you open the door – it will fly. If you, as a prisoner, open the door for me, I will not sit still.
Investigator: But no one opened the door for you, and you did not leave the door.
Zbeidi: From the door, from the window. Where there is an opening, you go out.
Investigator: Why did the prisoners choose to run away with them?
Zbeidi: Because I am a respectable person and my reputation is good. Maybe they thought of handing themselves over to the Palestinian Authority, and I – if I get out of jail, I go straight to the PA. I get a salary from the Palestinian Authority, I work for it. A better name.

Zabeidi later told the investigator about the escape plan itself. Zbeidi revealed that the prisoners had been digging for a long time and were told that no one in their wing knew about it, not even the Islamic Jihad prisoners, the organization to which they belong. Zbeidi then heard about the post-escape plan, and tried to explain to the leader that they were wrong, but without success.

Investigator: What were you told about the escape plan?
Zbeidi: They said ‘We have a tunnel, we have been digging for a long time. No one in the wing knows, not even the prisoners of Islamic Jihad, and do not say a word about it‘. I asked – when will we run away? They said, ‘As soon as we finish digging, we’ll go.’ I told them – do you want help? Shall I dig? They said, ‘No, nothing.’ From the day I saw the tunnel, I did not enter cell 5 until the escape.

Zabeidi: Mahmoud al-Arda told me that there is an Arab village, and the mosque is seen from the prison. He said: ‘We will get there, ask for a phone call from someone, a car will come and take us to Jenin.’ I told him: ‘This is a mistake, we need to run to Jenin directly. It’s faster. He refused, And I said ‘Khalas, you are in charge’. I’m a guest, not the one who decides.

Investigator: Why was the tunnel in the shower?
Zbeidi: That’s the weak point. It cannot be placed in the middle of the room. On the day of the escape as Mamji said to me: ‘Ask to move to cell 5 today’. Shortly before that a jailer checked the sewer and suspected something. He saw land near the cell. The prisoners were afraid he had discovered the tunnel, and decided we should run away that day.

A peek into the reserved wing Listen to another day with Gili Cohen

The interrogator asks Zbeidi about the very entrance to the tunnel, under the guards’ noses

Zbeidi: We had dinner and turned on the TV. Every half hour there is a rotation of the guards, until midnight. So – we started preparing. Monadel (another escaped prisoner) said it would take him about a quarter of an hour to open an opening at the end of the tunnel. A quarter of an hour after he entered it, we entered one by one.

After a two-mile walk, the fleeing terrorists changed clothes. They arrived in the village of Na’ura shortly before sunrise. There, they tried to get help – and went through a mosque and a grocery store.

Zbeidi: We stopped a car, and told the driver that we were operating from the territories, disconnected. He refused to help us. I did not speak to him directly. I did not want to get close to anyone, because I sell.

Zbeidi: We reached a grove near Tamra, and we were there for four days. We ate from the trees: sabers, figs and carob. We used a transistor to hear where we were being searched, and if there were any barriers. On the radio I also heard that two of the prisoners had been caught.

Zbeidi finds out that police officers stayed with him for about an hour but did not notice him

Zbeidi: We saw an Arab with an ATV, who said hello to us. We were afraid he would report us, and we decided to stay away from the area at that moment. At one point a police car arrived, and we hid under a tree. Another vehicle arrived, and the officers stood a meter away from us. After about an hour they left, but I realized that someone had reported us – because the police said my name.

Zabeidi and his partner Muhammad Arda were eventually captured five days after escaping from Gilboa Prison. One week ago, the six fugitives were charged with escaping from prison, but not with security offenses.

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