Israeli security forces arrested the brother and cousin of fugitive terrorist Iham Kamamji early on Monday morning, Palestinian media reported.
According to the reports, Kamamji’s brother Emad, a Jenin resident, was detained, as well as his cousin Qaysar, who hails from the nearby town of Kufr Dan.
In addition to the arrests, security forces were reportedly conducting searches in Yamun, Araqah, Ya’bad and Dan — all towns that lie close to the Palestinian city of Jenin in the northern West Bank.
A high-ranking commander in the Hamas terror group’s West Bank division was also said to be arrested overnight: Yousef al-Laham, a Bethlehem resident. In total, some 15 Palestinians had been arrested by Monday morning in connection with the fugitives, according to Palestinian media.
The Shin Bet security agency, which oversees nighttime search-and-arrest operations in the West Bank, did not respond to a request for comment.
Kamamji was among six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from an Israeli prison last Monday. Four have been recaptured, but Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, both of whom are members of the Islamic Jihad terror group, have evaded capture since the jailbreak.
Authorities believe that at least one of the remaining fugitives fled to the northern West Bank, where all six of the prisoners hail from.
Kamamji was serving a life sentence at the time of his escape, for killing an 18-year-old Israeli in 2006, a murder he reportedly expressed pride in.
Nafayat has not been charged with a crime. He was being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows it to imprison suspects without filing charges. Nonetheless, he has been claimed as a member of Islamic Jihad; belonging to the terror group is illegal under Israeli military law.
On Sunday Palestinian media reports claimed gunmen had opened fire toward Israeli troops near the town of Araqah, west of Jenin. But a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told The Times of Israel that the army was unaware of the incident.
Of the four back in custody, Yaqoub Qadiri and Mahmoud al-Arida, the latter reported to be the mastermind of the jailbreak, were arrested in the northern town of Nazareth on Friday night.
Al-Arida, considered a senior Islamic Jihad member, was jailed for life for terrorist activity, including attacks in which soldiers were killed. Qadiri, also an Islamic Jihad member, was also serving life terms for acts of terrorism including the murder of an Israeli in 2004. Both men were reportedly involved in a 2014 attempt to break out of Gilboa.
Zakaria Zubeidi and Mohammed al-Arida, the younger brother of the reported mastermind of the jailbreak, were then recaptured by Israeli counterterror police officers near the northern town of Shibli–Umm al-Ghanam early Saturday.
Zubeidi, a notorious commander in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terror group, was in prison while on trial for two dozen crimes, including attempted murder.
The younger al-Arida, also an Islamic Jihad member, was arrested in 2002 on terror offenses and sentenced to life in prison.
For Palestinians, the fugitives have been widely regarded as “heroes” who succeeded in freeing themselves from multiple life sentences.
The six escaped from Gilboa Prison in the predawn hours of last Monday, making their way out through their cell’s drainage system and an empty space underneath the prison.
The escape exposed a series of failures at the prison, and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said on Thursday that he had decided to form a government commission to probe the incident.
Among the apparent lapses were failure to learn lessons from previous escape attempts and several operational blunders, including unmanned watchtowers and sleeping guards.