RAMALLAH: Israeli troops have arrested a minimum of six relatives of Palestinians who broke out of a high-security jail, an area watchdog said on Wednesday amid protests in support of the escapees.
The six Palestinians staged their jailbreak on Monday through a hole that they had dug under a sink during a Gilboa cell in northern Israel — reportedly employing a spoon.
Israel has deployed drones, road checkpoints, and a military mission to Jenin, the house town within the occupied West Bank of the many of the lads locked up for his or her roles in attacks on the Jewish state.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said two brothers of Mahmud Ardah, described in local media because the mastermind of the escape, are arrested.
The army has also taken into custody four people — fellow loved one Dr. Nidal Ardah, two brothers of Mahmud’s cousin and fellow fugitive Mohammad Ardah and therefore the father of Munadel Infeiat, another escapee.
All three of those escapees are members of the Islamic Jihad armed group.
Amani Sarahneh, a spokeswoman for the prisoners’ group, said that others could even have been arrested, while some had been only briefly detained.
The Israeli army — which has occupied the West Bank since 1967 — said “several arrests were made overnight”, without elaborating.
“Holding someone so as to coerce a relative to try to do something maybe a mafia-style tactic,” tweeted Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday.
An Israeli injunction is in effect against publishing details of the jailbreak investigation, whilst local media report on the scramble to get over the embarrassing lapse and stop any possible attack by the fugitives.
The group on the run includes Zakaria Zubeidi, a former militant leader from Jenin.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club reported “tensions” in Israeli prisons on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli prison authorities confirmed that fires had been lit in Ktziot and Ramon jails.
“The situation is now in check, the fires are extinguished,” she said as Palestinian groups involved rallies later Wednesday in Nablus, Ramallah, and Jenin in support of the lads on the run.
Many people within the Gaza Strip and in Jenin took to the streets to celebrate when news of the escape broke on Monday.
Gilboa prison — which opened in 2004 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising — may be a high-security site where many Palestinians are detained among other inmates.
The prison service said all those held at Gilboa over “security offenses” were being relocated just in case more escape tunnels are dug beneath the power.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has called the breakout “a serious event that required a comprehensive effort by all of the safety services”.
His Palestinian counterpart, Mohammed Shtayyeh, said on Tuesday he was “happy” about the jailbreak.