Israeli prison official says 'unclear' if escape down to systemic neglect

Commander of Hermon Prison calls breakout 'a severe event demanding immediate care,' but stresses further investigation into possible lack of intelligence by Gilboa Prison officials must take place before conclusions are made

Alexandra Lukash, Roi Rubinstein, Elior Levy|
As the nationwide manhunt to capture six prisoners who escaped earlier this week from a high-security prison in northern Israel entered its fourth day, a senior prison official said Thursday it is still "unclear" if the breakout was a result of systemic negligence.
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  • The shocking prison break on Monday caused Israeli authorities to launch a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the West Bank after the prisoners - all jailed for serious terror offenses - tunneled out of their cell and escaped from Gilboa Prison in the biggest prison break of its kind in decades.
    3 View gallery
    יריב כהן מפקד בית סוהר חרמון בריאיון באולפן
    יריב כהן מפקד בית סוהר חרמון בריאיון באולפן
    Commissioner Yariv Cohen, commander of Hermon Prison
    (Photo: Neville Harris)
    Commissioner Yariv Cohen, commander of Hermon Prison told Ynet on Thursday that although their escape is a "severe event that demands immediate care," we must first find out the results of the police investigation into the incident.
    "We are still not at a stage where we can say if this is due to a lack of oversight or not," Cohen said. "The only thing that is clear is that those six terrorists need to be behind bars and they are currently not."
    Asked why prison officers did not notice the escape efforts beforehand, Cohen explained that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (to which five of the escapees belong to) is "a very complicated and discreet group. There is no doubt that we need to understand why we did not pick up on this intelligence-wise."
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    חיפושים אחרי האסירים הביטחוניים שנמלטו מכלא גלבוע
    חיפושים אחרי האסירים הביטחוניים שנמלטו מכלא גלבוע
    Police search for the escaped Palestinian prisoners outside Gilboa Prison
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    Cohen added that it should be examined why officers did not find the request made by Zakaria Zubeidi - a Fatah militant - to be moved to a cell manned by PIJ prisoners as peculiar. The Prison Service has a policy of keeping the various Palestinian groups as far away from each other as possible.
    "We still cannot tell what happened and how, but things should have been different."
    Israel's police minister vowed Thursday to capture six prisoners and deal with any blunders that could have led to the breakout.
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    המנהרה שממנה ברחו שישה אסירים ביטחוניים מכלא גלבוע
    המנהרה שממנה ברחו שישה אסירים ביטחוניים מכלא גלבוע
    The tunnel through which the six escaped at Gilboa Prison
    (Photo: AFP)
    "We will get our hands on the fleeing terrorists, we will correct the failures that might have led to the escape - and if we find professional negligence, we will take care of that as well," said Public Security Minister Omer Barlev.
    Police, in the meantime, announced that from now on the investigation into the incident will be conducted by Lahav 433's Unit of International Crime Investigations, with prison guards to give testimony over worries the six fugitives might have been aided by some of the prison's personnel.

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