Israel detains more relatives of escaped Palestinian prisoners

Palestinian Prisoners Club says two brothers and a sister of suspected mastermind arrested in West Bank

The Israeli Army on Friday arrested more relatives of six escaped Palestinian prisoners, an advocacy body said, as troops kept up a massive manhunt in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has poured troops into the Palestinian territory since Monday's breakout by six militants from the high security Gilboa prison in northern Israel through a tunnel dug under a sink in a cell.

Two brothers and a sister of suspected mastermind Mahmud Ardah were arrested on Friday morning in the village of Arraba near Jenin in the northern West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.

Ardah, a member of militant group Islamic Jihad, was jailed for life in 1996 over his role in deadly attacks.

Other relatives of the six fugitives, all from the Jenin area, were arrested on Wednesday and are being held in detention, the Palestinian advocacy group said.

The Israeli Army made no immediate comment on the latest arrests.

Speaking on a visit to a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said: "Sooner or later, we'll lay our hands on those we seek."

Mr Gantz said Israel did not want to see its reinforced military presence in the territory lead to any escalation.

"It's six people out of the millions living here," he said. "We need to be able to deal with these six and their accomplices without disrupting the other balances here.

"I hope this day will end quietly, either way the [army] is prepared for any development."

Palestinians have been celebrating the escape with demonstrations in both the West Bank and the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, some of which have been accompanied by rioting.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, called for a "Day of Rage" in the West Bank on Friday.

An Israeli court injunction is in effect against publishing details of the jailbreak investigation, even as Israeli media report on the scramble to recover from the embarrassing security lapse.

On Thursday, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev said that he and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had agreed to form a commission of inquiry led by a retired judge.

Updated: September 10th 2021, 1:29 PM
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