An Israeli court has sentenced a Palestinian prisoner to five years in prison

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Tel Aviv, Israel – An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced six Palestinian prisoners to five years in prison for tunneling from their cells last year and escaping from a high-security facility at the largest prison break of its kind in decades.

The prison break led to a massive search in the north and occupied West Bank for men who were members of the Palestinian militant group. They were arrested again a few days later.

The courageous escape dominated the newscast, sparked sharp criticism of Israel’s prison services and prompted the government to launch an investigation. According to various reports, the men dug a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell and were not detected for several months and were able to walk past the sleeping prison guard after coming out of a hole outside the facility.

The judge ruled that the sentence took into account that the prison break had crippled the nation for days, that it had cost prisoners to recover, and that public safety had been compromised by the escape of prisoners under life imprisonment and serious crimes.

The five-year sentence will be added on condition that the prisoners were already serving sentences. Five other inmates were sentenced to an additional four years in prison for aiding and abetting men.

Israel considers six fugitives terrorists. Five of them belong to the Islamic Jihad militant group, four of whom are serving life sentences. Sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah group. Jubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and is best known for his militant activities in Israel and his love for giving media interviews.

Palestinians see Israeli detainees as heroes of their national cause, and many on social media have celebrated and protested in support of the escape.

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