Israel still on alert for PIJ response to top official’s arrest
The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad says it is 'prepared to respond with force'
Israel’s army (IDF) was still on high alert Wednesday after closing roads near Gaza following the arrest of two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) members in the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday night.
PIJ commander Bassam al-Saadi and his son-in-law Ashraf Zidan Molmad Aljada were detained in an Israeli raid that saw heavy clashes, leading to the death of a 17-year-old Palestinian.
Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid held a security situation assessment on Tuesday with other top officials, including alternate prime minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, National Security Advisor Eyal Julata, and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.
In response to Saadi’s arrest, the Gaza-based PIJ declared a state of “high alert among our fighters and combat units” and said it was "prepared to respond with force," Ynetnews reported.
As news of his detention spread, crowds began to gather in the Jenin refugee camp and the nearby city of Nablus in the West Bank, as supporters voiced solidarity with the PIJ.
Following the arrest, the IDF closed off roads near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
"Following a situational assessment after terrorist activities were identified with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, it was decided to block off areas and routes adjacent to the Gaza Strip security fence,” the IDF said.
"The area has been closed to civilians due to a direct threat and in order to prevent a possible attack on civilians."
Home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, Gaza is under a 15-year-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade in response to the Islamist group ousting forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who for his part refused to hand over power of the Palestinian territories after losing to Hamas in elections.
The PIJ, a militant group with close links to Iran, has a strong presence in Gaza, regularly using it as a launchpad for rocket attacks against Israel.