NABLUS, West Bank – Twelve Palestinian militants escaped from a Palestinian-run prison in the northern West Bank city of Nablus overnight, saying they broke out to protest mistreatment by guards.
"We left the prison because of the aggression on the part of masked members of the national security forces against the detainees. There were scuffles and then we left," one of the detainees, Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh, told AFP.
"We gave up our weapons according to an agreement but we received nothing in return," he added.
"They told us if you give up your weapons and spend three months in jail, there will be an amnesty and the Israeli army will stop its operations in Nablus but nothing happened."
The detainees, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed group loosely tied to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, were wanted by the Israeli army, Palestinian security officials said.
They had been detained in the Jneid prison under a July 2007 agreement with Israel that allows militants to surrender their weapons and serve a three-month period of detention in exchange for amnesty.
Nablus governor Jamal al-Muhaisen urged the men to return to prison, saying their lives were in danger.
"They are out of prison now and their lives are in danger because of the Israelis. If they want to come back they are welcome but we won’t let them move freely or carry weapons," Muhaisen told AFP.
Fourteen members of the same group escaped from the prison on February 21 before turning themselves in the following day. They said the breakout was in protest at prison conditions and an Israeli decision to extend their detention from three months to six.