Gardai have identified two "safe houses" in Northern Ireland that the Hutch mob has been using for months to hide out from the Kinahan cartel, with tensions in the deadly feud at boiling point once more.
The two properties are in Belfast and near Newry, Co Down.
Sources said that up to half-a-dozen Hutch mob members have been staying between the two addresses on a "regular basis" in recent months as they keep clear of the cartel and avoid being arrested in the Republic.
The Herald understands that the PSNI has been conducting regular surveillance operations around the properties and are in regular contact with senior gardai.
One of the safe houses is an apartment in which a 30-year-old hitman for the mob has been hiding out after gardai warned him on 11 occasions in the past 14 months that he was under active death threat from the cartel.
Another of the safe houses is where the head of the Hutch mob, Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch (53), is believed to have spent several days last Christmas.
Gardai received information that a number of The Monk's closest associates travelled to the secret hideaway to meet him in late December, and it is believed that the under-threat mobster travelled to Dublin from there on one occasion.
It is understood that the Hutch mob has "security help" from associates of dissident republicans in the North in a bid to prevent them being attacked by the cartel.
The Monk's Christmas "break" in Northern Ireland was the first time he had surfaced since being spotted in Istanbul last October.
The last time publicity-shy Hutch was photographed was when he showed up in disguise at his murdered older brother Eddie's funeral in February last year.
The veteran crimelord's 54th birthday falls on Wednesday, but he is not expected back in Ireland to celebrate the occ-asion.
A 24-year-old relative of The Monk is also suspected of using the safe houses in the North.
This criminal was released from custody late last year but failed to reside at a named Dublin address as part of his post-release conditions.
Despite his young age, he is considered to be a leading member of the Hutch organised crime gang. It is suspected he was involved in the deadly attack on the Regency Hotel, and gardai subsequently informed him that his life was under threat.
A source revealed he is being sought over crimes not related to the current feud, but added that he was being investigated for gangland-related activity.
He was previously linked to the Kinahan cartel but fell out with them following the murder of Gary Hutch (33) in September 2015, a killing that forced a split in the international crime syndicate and has resulted in 11 murders.
Just over a month later, he was suspected of being involved in a botched murder plot on cartel associate Liam Roe (38) outside the Red Cow Hotel.
It is also suspected that another key Hutch gang member, Keith Murtagh (34), has been staying at the properties in the North.
Murtagh was the intended target of the attack in which innocent father-of-three Martin O'Rourke (27) was shot dead in a case of mistaken identity on Sheriff Street, Dublin, on April 14 last year.
Murtagh is regarded as a key associate of Derek 'Del Boy' Hutch, who is the brother of Gary Hutch and nephew of Eddie Hutch, both of whom were shot dead by the Kinahan gang as part of the bitter feud.
He was part of an armed gang, that included Derek Hutch, who conspired to steal a large sum of money from a cash-in-transit van in Lucan, Co Dublin, almost eight years ago.
Murtagh was wounded during the incident and one of his accomplices, Garrett Molloy (27), was shot dead by gardai.
The cautious behaviour of the Hutch gang comes as cartel boss Daniel Kinahan is determined to up the ante in the feud after becoming convinced there is an informant in his ranks.
Kinahan has launched an internal investigation to find out where the leaks are coming from.