Prisoner guards seeking cover during a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip last week reportedly disembarked from a bus full of prisoners, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves.
The Israel Prisons Service said the guards were following the rules in place for such an eventuality, Channel 12 news reported Tuesday. There were no injuries and none of the prisoners escaped from the bus.
The incident happened on November 12 as violence in Gaza flared up and Palestinian terror groups fired hundreds rockets and mortars at Israel over a two-day period.
On Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. as the first barrages of rockets were fired, a bus left Shikma Prison in the southern port city of Ashkelon to transport prisoners to various court hearings.
As the bus exited the prison, a rocket alert sounded, indicating projectiles were heading toward the city.
Guards left the vehicle and took cover while the prisoners, who were chained hand and foot inside the bus, were left behind.
One of the prisoners who was on the bus at the time told Channel 12: “They left us like ducks in a shooting gallery. The guards abandoned us. Because we are prisoners perhaps they thought that we have fewer rights.”
When guards returned, angry prisoners protested but were ignored, said the prisoner, who was not named in the report.
The Israel Prisons Service responded in a statement that the staff acted according to procedures, which instruct that “during a siren the guards should stop the vehicle under or as near as possible to cover, or at the side of the road. The detainees and prisoners are instructed to put their hands on their heads and bend over, lying down as much as the vehicle enables. Afterwards, the accompanying staff leave the vehicle and secure it.”
“As far as we know, last week there was no departure from procedures,” the statement said.
The prison service noted that even as the rocket fire continued in the following days, staff chaperoned 174 detainees and prisoners on various journeys outside of prison facilities.
The 48-hour flareup between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad began after the Israel Defense Forces killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a top commander in the terror group.
During the escalation in tensions, the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, fired some 450 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, which responded with many retaliatory strikes in Gaza.
Three Israelis were wounded by rocket fire during the fighting and dozens were injured when they fell while running to bomb shelters.
Thirty-four Palestinians in Gaza were killed in the confrontation and 109 were injured, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. At least 19 of them were members of terror groups and several were civilians, including eight minors.