Among those arrested was Mohammed Oudeh, an employee of the university, who officials believe planted the bomb that killed nine people in a cafeteria on July 31.
Oudeh was believed to be part of a 15-member cell linked to the militant Islamic group Hamas that is suspected of launching a series of attacks that killed 35 people this year. Security officials said the group orchestrated a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem cafe in March that killed 11 people, and an attack at a billiards club in Rishon Letzion that killed 16.
Officials said Oudeh, who worked as a house painter, hid the explosives on university grounds the night before the attack, retrieved them the next day and planted them in the cafeteria. Later, they said, he detonated the bomb remotely using a cell phone.
Oudeh’s brother, Samr, however, said his brother had no connection with the bombing.
“My brother just goes from home to work … and has nothing to do with any other thing,” Samr Oudeh told The Associated Press. “I deny the charges that the Israelis are trying to put on him.”
Authorities said they uncovered the cell on Saturday, while the suspects were reportedly on their way to retrieve another batch of hidden explosives on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway.
“Their methods of operation were very intelligent… Their next attacks would have only become more sophisticated,” Deputy Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra told Israel Radio.
Of the five suspects arrested so far, four are Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and one is a resident of Ramallah in the West Bank. The Jerusalem residents all carried identity cards, which allowed them to move about freely in Israel.
The arrests come a day after Israelis and Palestinians implemented a new security deal. Under the pact, the Israeli military pulled out of the West Bank town of Bethlehem, allowing Palestinians to resume security patrols there, in exchange for a Palestinian pledge to rein in terror groups. Officials from both sides said they would continue to honor the deal.