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August 2, 2022 12:44 pm
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Israel Closes Roads, Border Crossing Amid Risk of Retaliatory Attacks by Palestinian Islamic Jihad

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

IDF personnel near the West Bank security barrier. Photo: Security Fence and Border Administration, Israel’s Ministry of Defense

Israeli authorities have closed crossings and roads around the Gaza Strip border area amid concerns of retaliatory attacks by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, following the arrest of one of its West Bank-based leaders.

Israel’s security forces raised the alert level in the south of the country Tuesday, following violent riots overnight which led to the arrest of two senior PIJ commanders, Bassam al-Saadi and his son-in-law Ashraf Zidan Molmad Aljada, in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

“Our policy is clear: We will continue our operational activity and we will harm those who seek to perpetrate terrorism and harm the citizens of Israel,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated during a tour with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi around the West Bank area. “On the other hand, those who want to work and live in a good neighborhood will receive an outstretched hand.”

The IDF announced that areas and roads around the Gaza Strip security fence were blocked off “after terrorist activities were identified with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.”

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Train services between the southern cities of Ashkelon and Sderot were shut down, while the Erez Crossing, the main border crossing between Israel and Gaza, was closed along with various other roads, the IDF said.

“The areas have been closed to civilians due to a direct threat and in order to prevent a possible attack on civilians,” the IDF warned.

In a statement, Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the PIJ, declared a state of alert and raised the readiness level of its fighters, in response to the “treacherous aggression against Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi and his family in Jenin.”

Al-Saadi, 61, has been arrested several times in the past, serving a total of fifteen years in Israeli prison. He is thought to have played a central role in the buildup of the PIJ’s West Bank activities, in particular in Jenin, according to Israel’s security service.

An IDF platoon commander told the Kan broadcaster that the army has been preparing for the capture of al-Saadi for some time. During the operation, the military was met with gunfire from several directions, he said.

“He tried to run away, we caught him and under fire we dragged him to a shelter as he was not ready to cooperate,” the IDF commander said. “We had the opportunity to arrest another wanted person that we were not prepared for, his son-in-law who helped him carry out terrorist attacks.”

In the overnight operation to arrest al-Saadi a violent riot broke out during which rocks and explosive devices were hurled at the soldiers.

Dirar Al-Kafrayni, a 17-year-old Palestinian, was shot dead during the raid, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry.

“The rioters also shot at the soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal means and live fire,” the IDF said. “Hits were identified.”

Israeli defense forces have in recent weeks carried out numerous raids in and around the Jenin refugee camp following a deadly wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis earlier this year. Over the past few days, more than 50 individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist operations have been arrested by Israeli security forces, the IDF said.

“What was carried out tonight did not end in the death of that leader and it is possible that this fact, as it becomes clear in the coming hours, will reduce the chance of escalation.” tweeted Tamir Hayman, Managing Director of the Institute for National of Security Studies (INSS) and a former IDF intelligence chief.

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