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Islamic Jihad inmates charged with setting fire to cells during jailbreak riot

Two prisoners in Ramon jail placed mattresses in the shower room, set them alight, after wardens tried to move security prisoners between facilities in wake of Gilboa prison escape

A burnt prison cell is seen at Ketziot Prison following rioting by Palestinian security prisoners there, on September 8, 2021. (Courtesy)
A burnt prison cell is seen at Ketziot Prison following rioting by Palestinian security prisoners there, on September 8, 2021. (Courtesy)

Prosecutors on Thursday charged two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group with setting fires in the Ramon prison in southern Israel last month, amid the escape of six Palestinian security prisoners.

Omar ar-Roub, who is serving a life sentence, and Hammouda Zaika placed mattresses in a prison shower room, set them on fire using a lighter, which resulted in damage to the walls of the toilet cubicle, as well as the cellblock, according to the indictment.

The unrest in the prison, as well as others around the country, came as the Israel Prisons Service issued new restrictions on inmates following the escape of six security prisoners from a high-security Gilboa prison on September 6.

At the time, the Prisons Service began to move PIJ inmates between facilities following the jailbreak, as five of the escapees were members of the terror group.

Two cells in different wings of Ramon prison were set on fire on September 8, according to the IPS. Both blazes were brought under control after a short while.

Earlier that day, at least seven cells were set on fire in Ketziot prison, also located in Israel’s Negev desert, by members of the PIJ after they had refused to be moved between sections.

A prison guard is seen in a watch tower at Gilboa prison, in northern Israel, on September 6, 2021. (Flash90)

Prosecutors on Thursday said that if the prison guards had not managed to extinguish the fire quickly, “the fire could have spread throughout the prison and the incident could have ended in terrible disaster and loss of life.”

The six prisoners — five of them members of the PIJ, along with notorious Fatah terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi — 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.

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 on September 19.

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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