JERUSALEM (VINnews) — For the third straight day, the IDF has ordered all roads near the Gaza Strip border closed, as fears of a possible retaliation attack by the Islamic Jihad to the arrest of its commander in Judea and Samaria remain in place. The commander, Bassem Saadi, was arrested during a Monday night raid in Jenin, along with his son-in-law and aide, Ashraf al-Jada. A terrorist was killed in a firefight with the IDF.
The Hof Ashkelon Regional Council told citizens that plans by Islamic Jihad to launch anti-tank guided missiles or commit a sniper attack on the border have so far been prevented “by virtue of keeping and complying with the instructions.”
Besides closing roads adjacent to the border, the IDF deployed 100 reservists and three conscript companies to keep civilians away from restricted areas which may be within sniping range of the Islamic Jihad terrorists. Trains in the region have also ceased to travel over the last few days. The IDF Southern Command is also on high alert for potential rocket attacks by Islamic Jihad, which does not see itself bound by Hamas’s non-belligerence agreements with Israel.
The defensive moves have been severely criticized by local residents, who feel that the IDF should go on the offensive and remove the threats rather than taking extreme precautionary measures which disrupt life in the Western Negev.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid convened the high-level security cabinet on Wednesday to discuss the tensions and receive an update on Israel’s current assessments and actions it had been taking to defend against the imminent threat of a potential Islamic Jihad attack on the border. The terrorist group declared a state of “alertness” and raised fighters “readiness” following the arrest of the Jenin leader.
The Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper, citing an unnamed Palestinian source, said Wednesday that Egyptian efforts to deescalate the tensions between Israel and Islamic Jihad were still ongoing, but Israel had so far denied the terror group’s demands.
The paper said Islamic Jihad demanded that the family of Saadi be allowed to visit him to check on his condition. Additionally, Islamic Jihad demanded Israel end military operations in Judea and Samaria, specifically in the Jenin area where Saadi was detained, Al-Quds said.
Lastly, the terror group was asking for the release of Khalil Awawda, a Palestinian detainee currently on hunger strike, the report said.
The source told the paper that Israel was denying these demands, particularly regarding its operations in the West Bank.
The Islamic Jihad group also emphasized its “right to respond to crimes of the occupation”, leading to the continued tensions on the Gaza border.
In response to the growing criticism within Israel, IDF chief of staff Aviv Kochavi arrived in the Western Negev Thursday and held discussions with senior officers about possible attack plans in the Gaza strip if matters will escalate further. The IDF has deployed a large number of unmanned aircraft over the strip which are set to destroy any anti-tank squads which can be seen from the air.
As of Tuesday, the IDF has closed all roads near the border, as well as the Erez crossing for pedestrians going in and out of Gaza. The crossing is used for the thousands of Palestinian workers who arrive daily in Israel to work.
Saadi (61) who has been jailed and released by Israel seven times previously, had been working to restore the Islamic Jihad’s terror apparatus in Judea and Samaria. The Shin Bet said that in recent months he had “worked even harder to restore Islamic Jihad activities, and was behind the creation of a significant military force for the organization in [the northern West Bank] in general and in Jenin in particular.”
“His presence was a significant factor in the radicalization of the organization’s operatives in the field,” the Shin Bet added.