Montreal Gazette

PALESTINIA­N PRISONERS PULL OFF DRAMATIC ESCAPE.

Poster hid spoon used to tunnel from jail

- JAMES ROTHWELL

JERUSALEM • Israel launched a massive manhunt Monday after six Palestinia­n prisoners broke out of a high-security jail by digging a tunnel with a rusty spoon.

But there were conflictin­g reports as to whether the prisoners dug the tunnel themselves or simply broke into an existing undergroun­d passageway.

“We're not talking about a tunnel which was dug, exactly. There's a failure in the building, which is on top of a base of poles. There is a space underneath — and apparently the prisoners used it,” said local police chief Arik Yaakov.

The inmates, four of whom serving life sentences for deadly terror attacks, according to Israeli media reports, escaped at around 1 a.m.

Israeli officials said the escapees had dug a tunnel under the sink in their cell block which connected to a series of passageway­s under Gilboa prison in northern Israel.

Gilboa, known as “the safe” in Israel, is supposed to be one of the most secure prisons in the country.

On Monday night, Israeli officials described the escape as one of the worst security breaches in the country's history.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the prisoners used a rusty spoon hidden behind a poster to dig the tunnel over the course of a month.

The technique is reminiscen­t of the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption, in which protagonis­t Andy Dufresne digs a tunnel out of his cell and then conceals it behind a poster of film star Rita Hayworth.

The prisoners are believed to have tunnelled their way through the drainage system and emerged from a hole concealed by weeds outside the southern wall.

The Shin Bet security service said they may have been in contact with accomplice­s using a smuggled cellphone. According to some reports, the inmates fled in a waiting car shortly after emerging from the tunnel.

A photograph circulated by Israel's prison service on Monday showed an officer gazing into the opening of the tunnel outside the prison complex, surrounded by soldiers and journalist­s.

The Israeli military and police have launched a major manhunt for the escapees, with drones, search dogs and helicopter­s.

In a statement Monday, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, said he had discussed the prison break with Israel's security minister and “emphasized that this is a grave incident that requires an across-the-board effort by the security forces” to find the escapees.

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