Trump envoy lashes out against Islamic Jihad 'provocation' against Israel
US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt on Monday denounced "extremist statements and provocations" against Israel by Islamic Jihad, amid boiling tensions with the Palestinian militant faction following the deaths of several of its members in the destruction of an attack tunnel in the Gaza Strip last month.
Greenblatt, who has been appointed to revive moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, warned that Gaza's citizens stand to suffer the most from the escalation and called on the Palestinian Authority to resume full control over the Hamas-run enclave.
"Extremist statements & provocation vs. Israel by Islamic Jihad significantly harm the people of Gaza & are very dangerous," Greenblatt tweeted. "The PA must resume full responsibility in Gaza. US is working with the PA, Israel, Egypt & others to try to improve the situation. Gaza deserves better."
Extremist statements & provocation vs. Israel by Islamic Jihad significantly harm the people of Gaza & are very dangerous. The PA must resume full responsibility in Gaza. US is working with the PA, Israel, Egypt & others to try to improve the situation. Gaza deserves better.— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) November 13, 2017
Greenblatt's remarks came after the Israel Defense Force (IDF) raised Israel's alert level and deployed its Iron Dome anti-missile defense system to the center of the country after Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the deaths of its militants -- whose bodies are being held by Israel as bargaining chips in negotiations over the release of Israeli captives and fallen IDF soldiers.
Also on Monday, the IDF arrested senior Islamic Jihad official Tareq Qa'adan in the northern West Bank.
Just days earlier, Israel indicated that it was aware of a retaliation "plot" by the group and warned the militant faction that any response would be met with "force and determination".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that Israel "will react forcefully to whoever tries to attack us or attacks us from any arena."
In a statement released Sunday, the group proclaimed Israel's threats to be a "declaration of war" and vowed to “punish” Israel.
"When they kill men of the resistance, and especially from Islamic Jihad, we have no other choice but to punish the occupier, and continue to strengthen the buildup of forces from a conflict," the group said on Saturday.
According to Palestinian media reports, Hamas has encouraged Islamic Jihad to refrain from retaliating both to prevent confrontation with Israel and in order to not jeopardize fragile reconciliation talks between it and the Palestinian Authority.
The Egypt-led reconciliation process is considered by the US a step towards advancing a peace initiative between the Israelis and Palestinians, and Greenblatt has been following closely developments.
The Palestinian Authority is due to take full control of the Gaza Strip by December 1, but security and the disarmament of the enclave's Palestinian militant groups remains a major hurdle to be overcome.
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Tunnel is a "casus belli".