Israeli officials foil Palestinian prisoners’ escape plan


(JTA) — Palestinian prisoners serving time in an Israeli prison dug a tunnel and prepared fake uniforms in what prison authorities said was a foiled escape plan.

The 12-foot tunnel was discovered Thursday at the Shita maximum security prison in northern Israel, Israel Radio reported.

“We were looking for an improvised knife,” Asher Vaknin, a top officer of the Israel Prisons Service told the radio station about the discovery. “Then we found civilian clothing that had been converted to resemble prison guard uniforms. We cleared out the entire ward as a precaution and started to examine the perimeter. That’s when we found a four-meter tunnel dug from one of the cells.”

According to Army Radio, prison authorities suspect the inmates responsible for the tunnel may have planned to abduct a prison guard.

The prison has a few hundred inmates, including a separate ward for people serving time for what the prison defines as “security-related offenses” – a designation referring to Palestinians jailed for what the Israeli justice system defines terrorist activities.

In 2006 – one year before the prison’s name was changed from Shata to Shita – several inmates were injured in a mass fight that broke out after Friday prayers between prisoners belonging to the Fatah movement and those affiliated with Islamic Jihad.

The fight broke out after a prisoner who led the prayer said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is the leader of the Fatah movement, was an “enemy of the Palestinian people”  for meeting with Ehud Olmert, then prime minister of Israel.

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