“I received a telephone report that a citizen reported to the police about figures in an agricultural area, near Tower H.” “At that point I made a decision to go towards the prison from my home in the kibbutz, and then the shift commander updates him that six missing prisoners in cell 5 in wing 2, there was an escape, it’s a big drama.”
The commander of Gilboa Prison told the members of the investigation committee that all the necessary security operations had been carried out under his command. “Every security operation, counting, inspection of officials, inspection of sewer pits – ordered and recorded, also a search inside the prisoners’ cells.” Ben Sheetrit presented a thick-bellied file in which he presented numerous testimonies of various operations carried out in the prison under his command – “a summary of the security operations inside the prison, everything is documented.”
“Even at the initial telephone stage, I began to perform tests and counts, I contacted Gondar Northern District, and at the same time I also called the commander of the nearby Shata prison – to check if he had received a report of those unusual figures,” said Ben Sheetrit. “He woke up from his sleep and told me ‘I have not received any unusual report of figures in the agricultural area.'”
“I activated every possible emergency order upon receiving the update on the escape of the prisoners,” he continued. “I updated the district commander: ‘There is an escape’, and he also came further towards the prison, and we started to act according to the emergency instructions. I took an armed force and did a tour around the prison – so we first discover the tunnel from which the prisoners escaped. “At the entrance because maybe the prisoners are still inside it. At the same time, I ordered the placement of checkpoints around the prison, as part of the ‘smoke cloud’ emergency ordinance.”
Freddie Ben Sheetrit went on to say that after the initial report, he acted immediately to involve all security officials in the affair, including the police and the IDF: “An HFK was established in Beit Hashita.” Along with the search operations for the escaped prisoners, many operations were also carried out to secure and guard the rest of the cells in the prison, “for fear that more prisoners would join the escape,” Ben Sheetrit said. “We chained the prisoners in nearby cells to make sure there was no further action.” He also said that he recommended to the Prisons Service Commissioner to disperse the security prisoners in other facilities “for fear of another escape incident”.
According to him, the security systems in the prison were significantly upgraded in the period before the escape on New Year’s Eve – especially after the escape from Hermon Prison, when a criminal prisoner who managed to climb the prison fence escaped. “We did a tour inside the cell in an attempt to understand exactly how the escape took place, and then we also did a tour with the Minister of Internal Security.” Ben Sheetrit later said that that morning he did not have time to talk to the warden who was staying in the guard tower near the entrance to the tunnel from which the prisoners came out.
Gondar Mishneh Ben Sheetrit said that two days after the incident, a senior official in the Prison Service, Gondar, head of the ATL (Logistics Division), arrived for a tour and concluded that “the standard specifications of the prison did not provide the goods.” For the escape incident and taking responsibility for the outcome, he is not talking about the warden but about the standard specifications. “In 2014, there were additional excavations of escape tunnels, and the understanding then was that faults that were exposed then were addressed, but in practice – a senior commissioner says that everything that happened in 2014 was not addressed and was not sorted out.”