Jerusalem24 – Yehoshua Breiner wrote for Ha’aretz today that according to the results of the investigation, the digging began last December. Apparently on the 14th of the same month, after Mahmoud Al-Ardah succeeded in removing the cover that was placed under the washbasin in the room’s toilet. It was discovered that he was covering a void between the foundations of the prison.
The police estimated that the plan that was drawn up on that day was seen by 10 to 15 prisoners. Except for the six who escaped, there are now four other detainees affiliated with Islamic Jihad, three of whom could have been released from prison in the current period. According to the suspicion, they helped guard the room, hide the hatch, and watch the coming of the jailers. Two of them were imprisoned in the room where the escape took place, and they were replaced by Kammaji and Al-Zubaidi a few days before the execution. Three of the prisoners in the room were in danger of escaping.
The excavation process was led by Nafi’at and Mahmoud al-Ardah, with the participation of other prisoners. They used, among other things, pieces of iron that were found under the room’s floor, plates and tools they sharpened, and aluminum trays. The dirt that was taken out was distributed in the sewer and sewage manholes that are found throughout the prison, in garbage bins and other places. During the months of digging, the prison had problems with the pipes, but they did not raise the suspicions of the wardens or the professionals who were called to treat them.
The prisoners said in their interrogation that the escape was initially planned for Yom Kippur, but then the date of its execution was set for September 7, the first day of the Jewish New Year holiday in which the Prison Service and the police work within a reduced framework. A few days before the planned date, they feared that a build-up of dirt and recurring problems would enable the jailers to reveal the plan, and might even sabotage the tunnel. So they decided to make the escape a day early.
According to the suspicions, they contacted Palestinians residing in Israel without permits and agreed with them to help them reach Jenin after escaping. But the day’s early escape made them remain unassisted. Al-Zubaidi’s inclusion in the escape operation was due to his relationship with the Palestinian Authority and aimed at helping to reach Jenin.
Shortly before 1:30 at night, on September 6, between Sunday and Monday, the six left the room and walked into the tunnel that had been dug, according to al-Zubaidi, a few hours before that. The prisoners said that Mahmoud and Muhammad al-Ardah led the exit process; The crawling operation, which was based on the testimonies of prisoners and information gathered by the police, was estimated to take 20-30 minutes. At 1:49 p.m. the initial information about the prisoners was received when a public car driver who traveled in the area reported suspects to the police near the prison.
The six prisoners came out of the tunnel under the watchtower, in which no one was; The guard who was in the nearby watchtower, a prison guard in regular service, admitted that she fell asleep during the event. Sources in the Prisons Authority said that the release of prisoners was documented with security cameras, but no one saw it at the correct time. These sources said that they had seen the film in which the prisoners appeared carrying bags, bags full of clothes, cigarettes and food that they had collected in the days preceding the escape. The film did not reach Haaretz, and it was not possible to verify the information about it.
From prison, prisoners went to the village of Naoura. At 4:50 am, they were documented with a security camera. The police estimated that they chose the village 7.5 km from the prison because of the light of the mosque they saw. When they reached the village, they entered the mosque without revealing their identity and stayed there for 20 minutes, during which they changed their clothes. And when they went out, they wanted to get a car, or at least a car to take them, but they did not succeed in that. They got the food from a local bakery.
Between five and six a decision was made to separate them into pairs. The police assessed that in the absence of the assistance they had previously secured, they moved without any organized plan and were disoriented. The investigators only got to the waterwheel the next day.
Mahmoud al-Ardah and Ya’coub Qadri
The architect of the escape from prison and his close friend, who together spent 20 years in prison, headed from Naoura in the west and passed through the Givat Hamoreh Protectorate near the village of Solm, and proceeded north towards Nazareth. The police considered their exit from the village the “easiest way” because it was flat and paved. They moved at night and during the day they hid.
The two said during their interrogation that they ate pieces of sweets while escaping, which they bought in prison, in addition to fruits and vegetables from the fields around them, such as cucumbers, pomegranates and citrus fruits. They drank water from irrigation pipes. The police estimated that they had entered Nazareth, where they were arrested because of starvation. On the morning of their arrest, September 10, they crossed 60 Afula-Nazareth Street, and after sunset they headed toward Har Hakvitsa. At night, a city resident reported two people asking for help and food. After 45 minutes of conversation, they were arrested in the city without any resistance.
Mohammad al-Ardah and Zakaria Zubeidi
A senior police source said that after the separation, the only Fatah prisoner among the escapees and Muhammad al-Ardah went through the southern gate of Naoura and walked north towards Tamra. From there they headed east to Kibbutz Ghazit and then west to Har Tabor.
On Friday, before eight o’clock in the evening, and at the same time as the arrest of Al-Ardah and Qadri, a resident of the villages in the area reported that people had asked him, while he was traveling in Traktor near Umm Al-Ghanam, to help him reach the village of Iksal. A joint force of the police and the army arrived at the scene and diagnosed shoe marks that resembled shoe marks found near the exit hole from the prison. At five o’clock the search was crowned with success. Special forces from the police arrived at the garage of trucks in the area and found them tired.
The interrogators estimated that they first arrived at the place where they were arrested a few hours before they were found. It is not known what they ate while escaping, and there is a belief that they lived on what they had reached, and ate the fruits grown in the area. There was a suspicion that they had obtained the help of relatives of Al-Zubaidi living in the north, but after examination, this suspicion was quickly dismissed.
Munadil Infei’at and Ayham Kamamji
After they left the fountain, they went to the village of Solm and crossed Route 65 towards Balfouria. On the night of Tuesday-Wednesday, at 2:00, September 8, a traffic policeman reported two people crossing the street toward an agricultural area in the moshav. He searched for them and called other police cars, but they were not found.
At sunrise the interrogators did not pay any attention to what happened at night. However, during the day, the search operation resumed in the area and led to the discovery of items that were identical to the items that had been seen with them after they left prison, such as a brown bag with flowers on it that he was carrying as a mumji when he left the mosque in Al Naoura. and radio equipment. According to a police source, “there is no doubt left that it is about them.” The radios that were found were directed to Palestinian channels. According to the investigators’ assessment, they were aware of the search being conducted on them.
Traces found on the escape route indicated that they had separated, but investigators have not determined the matter with certainty. A police source said that Nafi’at was documented crossing the fence into the northern West Bank on September 8 through an opening between Salem and Al-Jalameh, with the help of another person. The distance he traversed from the Balfouria area to the fence through the Tanchim area is approximately 13 km. From there he continued to Jenin, first to Jenin refugee camp and then to the city. He was arrested there with Kammaji at the end of last week, on the night of Saturday-Sunday. From the initial investigation with them, it was found that they found it difficult to find a secret apartment in Jenin, so they hid in the house of one of the family members. The location of the house, which is relatively open, made it easier for the security forces to arrest them.
Regarding Cummings, a senior source admitted, “his journey has remained a mystery.” During the days of the chase, a police source said that Al-Shabbak knew about a movie he had shot before his release from prison. In the film, he appeared as Mumji saying that he would do everything in his power not to return to prison, even if his life was the price. Therefore, the security forces feared that he would try to carry out an operation during his escape, especially in the days following the arrest of his colleagues. The search for him focused on Iksal, where he worked before his imprisonment.
In the police, they do not know when Kammaji crossed the wall, and whether he did it with his colleague. The claim that he did so two days after his escape from prison contradicts the policeman’s claim and the antiquities found in Belforia. The investigators were not able to match the two directions of the investigation, but they believe that he arrived in the territories of the Authority two days after his arrival in Balfouria.
Questions that remain open
With the exception of the escape offense, the six prisoners are now also charged with plotting to carry out a commando operation. The punishment for the acts attributed to them is twenty years in prison, but four of them are already serving life sentences. Al-Zubaidi and Nafi’at were arrested and are being tried. Prisoners who remained in prison and learned of the escape were accused of aiding in it.
The first four are now being detained for two weeks, and the other two are in the first days of interrogation. The interrogators are now trying to complete the details of the escape before the indictments are presented: why the six prisoners were not organized and did not immediately escape from Jenin and moved towards the northern West Bank; Why were they separated into small cells and how were the pairs identified; What were their plans for the days following the escape, assuming that they planned not to be arrested? In addition, the events inside the prison are also examined, the mistakes in the prison service and the night of the escape itself.
Translation, quoting from the Atlas Group for Studies.