A commission of inquiry looking into the escape last year of Palestinian security prisoners from Gilboa Prison warned Israel Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry and three other senior officers on Thursday that they may face disciplinary action over the incident.
The other three officers who received notifications were deputy IPS chief and commander of security and operations Moni Biton, IPS Northern District Commander Arik Yaakov, and Gilboa Prison Warden Freddy Ben Shitrit.
The committee, which has yet to conclude its work and issue a final report, said “apparent shortcomings were revealed in the IPS activities surrounding the prevention of escapes from detention facilities in general, and the escape of security prisoners from Gilboa Prison on September 6, 2021.”
The alleged shortcomings related to intelligence, security and operations, the transfer of security prisoners between cells and wings, and various aspects of command.
The IPS said the warnings were intended to alert the officials to the fact that the committee’s eventual conclusions could be damaging to them.
The committee noted, however, that it has still not reached its final conclusions, nor decided what action it will advise be taken against any persons, if at all. Those issued warnings will be given a further opportunity to plead their cases to the committee, it said.
In general, the committee said the four officers may face reprimands for not ensuring enough attention was given to the threat of prison breaks, and not taking proper measures to prevent such incidents.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who is responsible for the prison service, said he will follow whatever recommendations the committee eventually issues, while also accusing the previous government of neglecting the prison service for years.
“The escape was, without doubt, a serious failure in the operation of the prison service,” Barlev said in a statement. He praised the committee for its diligent work.
The daring escape last September, which ended with the capture of all the escaped inmates within some two weeks, is seen as a major failure and embarrassment to the prisons service. The prisoners reportedly dug a tunnel for months before the prison break, using plates, panhandles, building debris and part of a metal hanger.
Perry has deflected responsibility for the prison break and during her own testimony to the committee slammed Gilboa Prison warden Ben Shitrit.
Ben Shitrit claimed in November he was “marked” by Perry as “the person responsible for the incident,” and said she attempted to oust him even before the investigation.
Five of the six inmates who escaped were members of the Islamic Jihad terror group, along with notorious Fatah terrorist Zakaria Zubeidi. Several had been convicted of capital crimes and were serving life terms.
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.