Is Is­lamic Ji­had gun­ning for another round of con­flict?

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

Two weeks af­ter IDF de­stroyed a Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had (PIJ) cross-bor­der at­tack tun­nel, the army is ready­ing it­self for any re­tal­i­a­tion by the ter­ror­ist group.

It has upped its alert­ness along the Gaza bor­der and has de­ployed Iron Dome bat­ter­ies across the cen­ter of the coun­try.

PIJ has been seething since the army de­stroyed one of its cross-bor­der at­tack tun­nels last month, which killed 12 ter­ror­ists in­clud­ing two se­nior Is­lamic Ji­had com­man­ders and two Ha­mas mem­bers.

The group, which may have been hold­ing off re­tal­i­at­ing against Is­rael while the bod­ies of five of its ter­ror­ists were miss­ing in­side the

tun­nel, may now be more in­clined to launch a sur­prise at­tack against Is­rael since the IDF con­firmed last week that they are hold­ing on to those bod­ies af­ter they found them in­side Is­raeli ter­ri­tory.

While the IDF has said that the death of the ter­ror­ists was not the op­er­a­tion’s pri­mary ob­jec­tive, se­nior Is­lamic Ji­had of­fi­cial in Gaza, Khaled al-Batash said on Sun­day that his group has no other choice but to “pun­ish” Is­rael for killing its mem­bers.

“Our mes­sage to Is­rael: Your hands, drenched in the blood of our chil­dren, will not stop killing un­til they are cut off or ex­pelled from our land and coun­try.

“The en­emy’s ter­ror and threats do not frighten us and will not de­ter our lead­er­ship from the path of Ji­had – the prin­ci­ple of our de­fense and re­sis­tance,” PIJ warned.

For its part, Ha­mas has said that “the coura­geous re­sis­tance will al­ways con­tinue to be ready.”

The coun­try’s se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment re­sponded to the threats from PIJ and Ha­mas by pub­lish­ing a strong mes­sage to Ha­mas over the week­end.

Co­or­di­na­tor of Gov­ern­ment Ac­tiv­i­ties in the Ter­ri­to­ries, Maj.-Gen. Yoav ‘Poly’ Mordechai warned the group that it is “play­ing with fire.”

“We are aware of the Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had’s plot that is be­ing formed against Is­rael,” and that the IDF would re­spond with force against Ha­mas – the au­thor­ity in the Gaza Strip, Mordechai said.

“It should be clear, any re­sponse by Is­lamic Ji­had, what­ever it may be, will be re­sponded to by Is­rael with power and de­ter­mi­na­tion, not only against Is­lamic Ji­had but also against Ha­mas.

“We ad­vise the Is­lamic Ji­had lead­er­ship in Da­m­as­cus to be care­ful and get things un­der con­trol,” he con­tin­ued.

The ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion said the tun­nel, which was de­tected us­ing newly im­ple­mented ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and de­stroyed in a con­trolled ex­plo­sion in­side Is­raeli ter­ri­tory, had been un­der con­struc­tion “for years.”

Dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, sev­eral sol­diers were killed by Ha­mas in­sur­gents when they popped out of nu­mer­ous tun­nels dug into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory by the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

They sur­prised the IDF and left res­i­dents of bor­der com­mu­ni­ties con­cerned about pos­si­ble tun­nels be­neath their homes.

In re­sponse to the tun­nel threat, the gov­ern­ment has started build­ing a state of the art un­der­ground bar­rier which has a sys­tem of ad­vanced sen­sor and mon­i­tor­ing de­vices to de­tect tun­nels com­bined with a 6 m. high above-ground smart fence.

While the IDF is con­fi­dent that no tun­nel will be able to cross the un­der­ground bar­rier, there re­mains a large amount of con­struc­tion on the bar­rier which has not yet be­gun, in­clud­ing the area where the tun­nel was lo­cated near the com­mu­nity of Kis­su­fim.

This caused some con­cern for the Jewish state, es­pe­cially with a re­port by Al Hayat, which said the PIJ have been watch­ing the move­ments of IDF troops and civil­ians on the Gaza bor­der us­ing binoc­u­lars and other surveil­lance equip­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Pales­tinian me­dia, Ha­mas has urged PIJ to ab­stain from re­tal­i­at­ing in or­der to pre­vent fur­ther es­ca­la­tion with Is­rael and to pre­vent any pos­si­ble break­down of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks with the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity.

But PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas was re­cently sum­moned by Saudi Ara­bia where he was re­port­edly pres­sured by Riyadh to stop rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks with Ha­mas, which has been in­creas­ingly courting its main foe Iran af­ter years of dis­agree­ments.

While the PIJ may be un­der pres­sure by Ha­mas to re­strain it­self, PIJ is not a sig­na­tory to the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal and may choose to at­tack the coun­try know­ing that Ha­mas will be the tar­get of any Is­raeli re­tal­i­a­tion.

So while both Is­rael and Ha­mas may not be gun­ning for another round of con­flict, noth­ing is hold­ing PIJ back from car­ry­ing out an at­tack against Is­rael and bring­ing all groups into another bloody con­fronta­tion.

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