JERUSALEM (May. 11)
Hundreds of police and soldiers fanned out over southern Israel Monday searching for an escaped Palestinian terrorist who killed an Israeli soldier last year and may well kill again.
Police, at the same time, could not conceal their profound embarrassment over the laxity that allowed Jamil Ismail Baz, 44, to escape from a guarded prison van even though he was in chains.
The head of the Southern District Police, Rafi Peled, called the incident “a grave mishap” and assured reporters “we will deal appropriately with all those responsible for it.”
Peled said the police are conducting a high-level internal inquiry into the matter.
He insisted that the breach of security was an aberration, not an example of standard police discipline.
Baz, a resident of Gaza, assaulted a group of soldiers at a bus stop outside of Tel Aviv in July 1991, fatally stabbing Nadav Deri and wounding three others.
He escaped northward in a vehicle and later hijacked a taxi to continue his flight. But he was stopped at a police roadblock and arrested.
Baz, incarcerated near Ashkelon, was being transferred to a different prison when he found himself alone in the rear of the van while his two armed guards, contrary to standing orders, sat up front in the cab.
Somewhere along the road, the prisoner managed to open the rear of the van and escape, even though his legs were manacled. The search was hampered because neither the guards nor the van driver could say exactly where or when their prisoner had bolted. Police sources, warning that the man was a dangerous fugitive, speculated that he would try to cross the border into Egypt or find a hideout in the Gaza Strip.