Clashes in West Bank on ‘day of rage’ following Israeli prison breakout

Palestinian man shot and killed in Jerusalem amid manhunt for escaped militants

Israeli troops  in the city centre of the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday. Photograph: Abed al-Hashlamoun/EPA

Israeli troops in the city centre of the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday. Photograph: Abed al-Hashlamoun/EPA

 

There was unrest in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday as Palestinians observed a “day of rage” in solidarity with six militants who escaped from a maximum security Israeli prison earlier this week.

A Palestinian man was shot and killed on Friday after allegedly attempting to stab Israeli border police in Jerusalem’s Old City. Elsewhere, sporadic clashes occurred in the West Bank and some worshippers attending Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque waved spoons in a reference to reports that the six militants used spoons to dig their escape tunnel.

Two of the six escapees were later captured but the others remain at large as a massive manhunt by the Israeli security forces continues.

After the jailbreak Israel extended a closure imposed on the West Bank over the Jewish New Year and drafted large reinforcements to the area, focusing on the area around the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the home of all six escapees. Israel’s police raised the level of alert nationwide to one level below the highest and roadblocks were erected around the country.

A number of the militants’ relatives were arrested and Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz said Israel had a lead on the location of the fugitives.

“Ultimately, we will get our hands on the people who escaped. There are intelligence and operational leads and I am sure we will catch them,” he said, adding that Israel was working in tandem with the Palestinian Authority to locate the fugitives.

Warning

Palestinian groups have warned of serious consequences if the militants are hurt and the fear is that if any of them is killed by Israeli forces a new wave of violence will sweep the region, including rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel has also transferred hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to other jails and restricted prisoner privileges and visits following the escape.

“Every act of revenge on prisoners will bring the opening of the gates of hell against Israel in every place,” warned Islamic Jihad, the group that five of the escapees belong to.

Hamas warned that it was willing to “make any sacrifice to defend our heroic prisoners”.

Israel is setting up a commission of inquiry to examine a litany of failures that resulted in Monday morning’s breakout.

The six prisoners lifted a section of a shower stall and dug a tunnel to escape, exiting near a perimeter wall watchtower that reportedly was not staffed on the night of the escape.

There were also reports in Israeli media that architectural blueprints of the prison were accessible online. Investigators will also want to know why high-risk militants from the same organisation were put in the same cell.