Israel on Tuesday was making preparations for rocket attacks and the threat of a wider conflict following the air force’s targeted defensive operation ‘Shield and Arrow” that killed three top Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in strikes across the Gaza Strip in the morning.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) identified the targets of the operation as Khalil Bahitini, PIJ’s commander in northern Gaza; Jahed Ahnam, a senior member of the terror group’s military council; and Tarek Azaldin, who directs its activities in Judea and Samaria.
Israel also struck 10 sites in Gaza belonging to PIJ, including weapons manufacturing facilities and depots.
“The strikes targeted senior figures responsible for rocket fire from Gaza in recent months and who were involved in organizing additional attacks on Israelis, including in Judea and Samaria,” said IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari, adding: “Those who endanger Israeli lives, and those who work tirelessly to harm Israel’s security, will not remain unharmed.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the call-up of a limited number of reserve troops for “Operation Shield and Arrow.”
“The State of Israel seeks stability in the region, while the Iranian-funded PIJ terror group launches attacks. At the same time, it harms its own people—the Palestinian residents of Gaza,” he said.
“The State of Israel will not tolerate rocket fire, terrorism or any threats to the sovereignty of our state and security of our citizens. We must be prepared for every scenario—the IDF and security forces are prepared to defend every front,” he added.
In recent years, Israel has been working to stabilize the security situation in the Gaza Strip but despite this, the PIJ, which is one of the Iranian proxy groups, systematically and continously violated the stability by firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip and directing terror attacks in the West Bank.
According to Prof. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, with this retaliatory operation Israel is trying to drive a wedge between Palestinian Islamif Jihad and Hamas, the other Palestinian terror group which governs the Gaza Strip. ‘’Israel wouldn’t like Hamas to be involved because this would be a kind of a mess that could be seen in other arenas too. This attack is very penetrating, very painful because it hit three of the main leaders- tactically or military speaking – of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s so-called ‘’Brigades of Jerusalem,’’ he said in an interview with European Jewish Press.
‘’Israel tries to come up with something to set the stage for a new equation. The equation we had till now is not something we could live with because the rythm of action and time is just in the hands of the other side. And Israel has to just make sure that it is well know that it could in no time take action by itrself and get kind of a message to those who are running this operation on behalf of the Islamic Jihad that this would not go unnoticed. And they are going actually to pay a heavy price. The thing here is that Israel is just tasting the water because the notion is that you can act against Islamic Jihad in Gaza one on one, mano a mano. But it remains to be seen what Hamas is going to do because if Hamas is going to be involved, we are in a different opera.’’
Do you think that Hamas will react ?
‘’It’s very difficulkt to say. I find it very difficult to believe that Hamas can put in risk all the civilian achievelments that it managed to achieve in Gaza and put it on the risk. But who knows, because we are in a dynamic of war and we can be dragged into that. I think that Hamas will stay or keep the art of fence sitting, wouldn’t like to put in risk its achievements.’’
Can the PIJ survive surch an operation ?
‘’They are going to retaliate but you have to take into account that they don’t have the amount of rockets to force on Israel kind of a long war because PIJ is a tiny organisation. If it would be PIJ, we gone have a saga of one or two days. If it would be more that that, with Hamas, this is a different opera. This why we have to wait and see.’’
PIJ: a terrorist group funded, armed and trained by Iran
Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini, better known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), is the most radical terrorist organization operating in the Palestinian arena. It was formed in 1981 by Islamic fundamentalist Fathi Shiqaqi, a physician from Rafah, and Shaykh ‘Abd al-’Aziz ‘Awda, a preacher from the Jabalia refugee camp.
PIJ developed its relationship with Iran in the 1990s and developed a partnership with Hezbollah that led to it receiving arms and training. In 2000, Iran also paid PIJ cash bonuses for successful attacks and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guad Corps (IRGC). created training camps for Hamas, PIJ, and other terrorists to learn how to use missiles and antiaircraft rockets.