Israel arrests family members of Palestinian jail escapees

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Israeli troops have arrested at least five family members in the occupied West Bank of the Palestinians who escaped from a high-security jail this week, a Palestinian prisoners' group said Wednesday.

The six Palestinians fled Monday through a hole dug under a sink in a Gilboa prison cell in northern Israel.

Israel has deployed drones, road checkpoints and an army mission to Jenin, the West Bank hometown of many of the men locked up for their roles in attacks on the Jewish state.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club said two brothers of Mahmud Ardah, described in local media as the mastermind of the escape, have been arrested.

The army has also taken into custody three other people -- fellow family member Dr. Nidal Ardah, along with the brother of a second fugitive and the father of Munadel Infeiat, another escapee.

All three of these escapees are members of the Islamic Jihad armed group.

Amani Sarahneh, a spokeswoman for the prisoners' group, told AFP that others could also have been arrested, while some had been only briefly detained.

Asked by AFP, the Israeli army -- which has occupied the West Bank since 1967 -- said "several arrests were made overnight," without elaborating.

An Israeli injunction is in effect against publishing details of the investigation, even as local media report on the scramble to recover from the embarrassing lapse and prevent any possible attack by the fugitives.