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The real thing: Gilboa jailbreakers may have used cola to weaken slab under cell

6 recaptured Palestinian security prisoners said dispersed to 5 jails; engineers believe they may have weakened concrete, 8 inches thick, with help of acidic liquid, possibly cola

Zakaria Zubeidi, a notorious Fatah terrorist recaptured after breaking out of Gilboa Prison with five other security prisoners, arrives for a hearing at the District Court in Nazareth, on September 11, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Zakaria Zubeidi, a notorious Fatah terrorist recaptured after breaking out of Gilboa Prison with five other security prisoners, arrives for a hearing at the District Court in Nazareth, on September 11, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Prison authorities have dispersed the six recaptured prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa jail last month to five different prisons across the country, the Kan public broadcaster reported Friday, in an apparent bid to stop them plotting a fresh break.

Meanwhile, engineers who have examined the cell from which they escape reportedly believe they used an acidic liquid, possibly a cola drink, to weaken a concrete slab beneath their cell to make their escape.

Notorious Fatah terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi was sent to the Eshsel prison in Beersheba; Mohammed al-Arida, the reported mastermind of the jailbreak, and Munadil Nafiyat were sent to the Ayalon prison in Ramla; Mohammed al-Arida was sent to Shikma prison in Ashkelon; Yaquob Qadiri is now being held in Rimonim prison in Even Yehuda and Iham Kamamji was sent to Ohalei Keidar prison, also in Beersheba.

Apart from Zubeidi, the other five are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Nafayat had not been charged with a crime and was being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows it to imprison suspects without filing charges for security purposes.

Kan reported that they were being held in cells away from the general prison population.

State prosecutors said Wednesday that they intended to indict the six, as well as five other inmates suspected of helping them.

With the impending indictment of the captured fugitives and their alleged accomplices, the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service announced the end of their investigation into the prison break, one of the worst in the country’s history. However, a state commission will continue to investigate the escape and the potential failures by the prison staff, the Israel Prisons Service and other government offices that may have contributed to it.

Police officers and prison guards inspect the scene of a prison escape outside the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

On September 6, the six escaped from Gilboa Prison, making their way out through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space underneath the prison. They had reportedly begun digging in November, using plates, panhandles, building debris, and part of a metal hanger.

On Thursday, Kan reported that engineers who examined the site believe that they may have weakened a 20 centimeter (8 inches) thick concrete slab under their cell with the repeated application of acidic liquids, or even with a cola drink.

Four of them were captured in northern Israel within the first week, but two others made their way into the northern West Bank city of Jenin and hid out there until their arrest last week.

The escape exposed a series of lapses at the prison, including a failure to learn lessons from previous escape attempts and several operational blunders such as unmanned watchtowers and sleeping guards.

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)

“As part of the investigation, five inmates from Gilboa Prison were suspected of cooperating and helping the six prisoners escape,” the police said Wednesday.

Prosecutors filed their intent to indict the 11 prisoners — the first step ahead of pressing formal charges — with the Nazareth District Court on Wednesday.

Last Friday, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev announced the makeup of a government commission to investigate the escape.

A statement from Barlev’s office said the panel would be headed by retired judge Menachem Finkelstein, who previously served as deputy head of the Central District Court and chief military prosecutor, among other posts.

The commission will also include Prof. Efrat Shoham, a criminologist at Ashkelon Academic College, and Arik Barbing, a former senior official in the Shin Bet security service.

The statement didn’t specify when the panel was expected to begin its work.

Barlev announced the planned commission days after the jailbreak, vowing to leave “no stone unturned” in investigating the causes of the prison escape.

Channel 12 news reported Thursday that the space underneath the prison will be filled with cement, using techniques developed by the military to prevent cross-border attack tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

A prison guard stands at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The prisons service will also adopt other measures to improve security at Gilboa, including new warning and advanced detection systems that use artificial intelligence, according to the report.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report

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