Remembering heroic Gilboa prison break by Palestinians

September 07, 2022

Today marks the first anniversary of the heroic prison break by Palestinian detainees who managed to dig a tunnel underneath a maximum-security jail and wrest their freedom for a couple of days.

The six Palestinian heroes who broke free from the high-security Israeli jail of Gilboa' have been identified as Mahmoud Al-Ardah, Muhammad Al-Ardah, Ayham Kammji, Yaqoub Qadri, Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, and Munadil Enfe'at, all from Jenin governorate in the northern occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians across Palestine and in the diaspora greatly celebrated the operation, later described as the ‘Tunnel of Freedom’ battle, even though they were re-detained by Israeli occupation forces within two weeks.

It took the six Palestinian detainees nine months to dig the tunnel in the prison's drainage system using a piece of iron they took from a small cupboard that was in the cell a few years ago. Then they dug the door of the tunnel for 20 days. Under that was another iron plate, they peeled it off until it was removed.

One of the detainees took over the task of digging through 15 centimeters of concrete while the others covered for him. The work then continued with the detainees digging their way for 30 meters, with the main challenge being getting rid of the excess sand.

“Initially, we would empty the sand into the toilet and the shower. We then made a small room for the sand,” Mahmoud Al-Arida, the mastermind of the heroic prison break, said. “We improvised sandbags out of clothes. We dug until we saw sunlight without bars. It was then that we realized we succeeded.”

About two weeks later, the Israeli occupation forces re-detained the six Palestinian jail breakers after a mun-hunt launched since the first day they fled the jail.

This operation has been seen as a major failure by the Israeli occupation's prison service which failed to notice the heroes fleeing the jail and a humiliation of its "security" establishment.

After the Israeli occupation forces re-detained the six detainees, the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, vowed to set them free in any future prisoner swap deal with the Israeli occupation.

Abu Obaida, Al-Qassam spokesperson said, “The jailers themselves will open the doors of the cells for them, and they will come out as they have always been with their heads held high in a new deal”.

He affirmed that "it has been decided that any future prisoners’ swap deal will not take place without the liberation of these heroes (Gilboa prison breakers)."