Tensions continue to run high between Israel and the Iranian-proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in the Gaza Strip despite extensive mediation efforts by Egypt.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
The PIJ, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), has repeatedly vowed to avenge Israel’s capture of its West Bank operations leader Bassam al-Sa’adi and his deputy, as well as the killing of one of its operatives on 1 August.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid convened the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (the Security Cabinet), at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem to discuss the situation in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Security officials who attended the meeting include Israel Security Agency (ISA) Director Ronen Bar, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and IDF Intelligence Branch Commander Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, who briefed the Cabinet on the security situation in the south.
During a conference call with southern local authority heads, Prime Minister Lapid proved an update on the current state of affairs, and assured them that Israel is prepared for any scenario and will take necessary action against any organization that threatens the security of Israeli citizens. Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Director General Naama Schultz has also been instructed to render all necessary assistance to southern residents in the immediate, short and long terms.
The Israeli Premier also consulted throughout the day on necessary measured to ensure stability in the area with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who conducted an assessment today along the Gaza border. The assessment was conducted together with the IDF Chief of-Staff, ISA Director, the Ministry of Defense (IMoD) Director General and additional senior officials.
“Minister Gantz instructed the establishment to employ a variety of civilian and military measures in order to counter threats on Israel’s southern region, and to prepare operational activities in order to restore routine life and activities in the area,” according to a statement TV7 obtained from the IMoD Communications Office. The top defense official also ordered the Ministry’s National Emergency Authority (NEMA) to work in conjunction with the IDF Homefront Command to meet the needs of Israeli citizens living along the Gaza border.
He also “emphasized that all operational activities in all areas will continue as planned,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military Operation Waves Breaker continues in full force – with IDF, ISA and Border Police Special Operations forces conducting counterterrorism activities at multiple locations throughout the West Bank districts of Judea and Samaria.
At least 22 suspected terror operatives were apprehended in overnight operations, the majority of whom have known ties to the PIJ. Many of the suspects were in possession of illegal weapons, as well as an improvised explosive device.
And while a number of violent riots and clashes erupted at several locations, no injuries were reported among the Israeli forces.
Reports of Egyptian-led mediation efforts to alleviate tensions between Israel and the PIJ are believed to have yielded some results. PIJ leader Ziad al-Nakhala, who met yesterday with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran, held a subsequent phone conversation with Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Director Abbas Kamel in which he was said to have expressed a commitment to exercising restraint at this point in time.
The Israeli defense establishment has nevertheless decided to maintain heightened security measures for the third consecutive day. Train service between the southern city of Ashkelon and town Netivot remained suspended.
An unnamed senior PIJ official speaking to Israel’s state-funded Kan Radio station noted that his group has “climbed up too high a tree” vis-à-vis Jerusalem, and now must consider its next move to avoid a massive retaliation while still fulfilling its pledge of revenge. Such action, the official said, could include the launching of rockets at either uninhabited areas of Israel or toward the Mediterranean Sea., in order to draw only a limited response by the IDF.
Both the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza and Egypt are applying immense pressure on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to act with restraint.
Defense Minister Gantz levelled a warning to the Palestinian leadership of the Gaza Strip yesterday following a tour of the separation barrier with Lt. Gen. Kochavi at the Judea and Samaria Division and an Observation Post.
“Our policy in clear, those who want to work and live in good neighborliness will receive an outstretched hand. With the other hand, we will harm anyone who wants to harm the citizens of Israel and perpetrate terrorism. The ISA and the Israel Defense Forces will continue their operational activities, with all tools and in all arenas. Any threat to the citizens of Israel will be met with a powerful response and we will of course prepare for any scenario. Derived from this exact same concept, we are also making progress in the work on the seamline barrier and adjusting the operational concept continuously, in order to protect the civilian home front and also to expand the economic circles between us and the Palestinians based on common interests of prosperity and stability,” he said.