Clampdown comes after unidentified gunmen opened fire at home of Jenin governor Musa, who died of heart attack.
Palestinian Authority security forces arrested dozens of Palestinians in Jenin and surrounding villages in the past 48 hours, sources in the city said on Sunday.
Many of those arrested are Fatah members and officers working for PA security services.
They said the clampdown, the biggest launched by the PA in the West Bank, came after unidentified men shot at the home of Jenin Gov. Kadoura Musa last Wednesday.
Musa was not hurt in the attack. However, he died shortly afterwards of a heart attack, prompting PA President Mahmoud Abbas to order a massive security operation against “outlaws” and “criminals” in the area.
The attack on Musa’s home came one month after Palestinian security forces shot and killed a local man who had been wanted for criminal activities.
It was not clear Sunday whether the attack on Musa’s home was related to the killing of the fugitive.
Jenin residents have long complained about lawlessness in the city and surrounding villages.
Many residents blame Fatah gangs for the chaos.
They also hold senior Palestinian security commanders responsible for maintaining close ties with the gangs.
In April 2011, unidentified men shot and killed Israeli Arab actor and producer Julian Mar-Khamis in the Jenin refugee camp.
The PA security forces have failed to capture the assailants, sparking rumors about the possible involvement of Fatah gangsters and security officers.
Radi Asideh, commander of the PA security forces in the Jenin area, said that his men were conducting a “huge manhunt after outlaws and thugs.”
He said that scores of suspects have been arrested since the start of the security operation over the weekend.
“The criminals will be brought to justice,” Asideh said without revealing the number of people arrested.
Palestinian security forces were searching for the men who shot at the governor’s house and other people involved in various crimes, including extortion and murder, he added.
Eyewitnesses said at least 2,000 PA policemen and officers were taking part in the operation.
They said the forces were conducting house-to-house searches and combing fields and mountains.
“They are even searching in the caves for wanted men,” said Ahmed Abu al-Rub, a merchant from Jenin. “This is the biggest operation ever.”
Among those arrested is Zakariya Zubeidi, the commander of Fatah’s armed militia, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, in the Jenin refugee camp.
Zubeidi, who was once wanted by Israel for his role in terrorist attacks, was pardoned a few years ago and later became a member of the PA security forces.
The PA also arrested Muhammad al-Zalafi, the former security commander of Jenin.
Two officers working for the PA’s General Intelligence Service, Raed Dabaya and Ahmed Turkeman, were also rounded up.
All the suspects have been transferred to the PA’s central prison in Jericho.
The arrests triggered angry reactions from many families.
Mothers of some of the detainees staged a demonstration in Jenin to protest against the clampdown, calling for their sons to be released.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH