Is Islamic Jihad gunning for another round of conflict?
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.