Gaza-area closures enter third day as Israel prepares for possible conflict

The situation in southern Israel remains tense following the capture of Bassam al-Sa’adi, the head of the PIJ in Judea and Samaria.

By JNS

Roads around the Gaza Strip remained closed on Thursday for the third straight day, amid concerns of possible retaliation for the arrest in Jenin on Monday of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure.

The Israeli military has been on high alert since the capture of Bassam al-Sa’adi, the head of the PIJ in Judea and Samaria.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had bolstered its Gaza Division with reservist troops, who are keeping civilians out of restricted zones. The Southern Command also boosted its air defense capabilities in anticipation of a possible rocket attack.

Local media cited a statement released by the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, which is located adjacent to Gaza, as saying that a PIJ attack using anti-tank missiles or snipers had thus far been prevented “by virtue of … complying with the [IDF’s] instructions.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday convened the Security Cabinet to prepare for a possible confrontation.

The move comes a day after Egyptian mediators were dispatched to Gaza, with Jerusalem having reportedly conveyed a message via the intermediaries to Hamas, which rules the enclave, and to PIJ, that it was not interested in an escalation but would respond forcefully to any attack.

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The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) also took the rare step on Wednesday of leaking images to journalists that showed al-Sa’adi, in good condition, apparently in order to counter rumors that he had been seriously injured or even killed during the raid.

The Israeli forces that entered Jenin on Monday came under fire and a gun battle ensued. A number of terrorists were hit, according to the IDF, and at least one gunman—later claimed by PIJ as one of its members—was killed.

There were no casualties among the Israeli forces, who seized weapons, ammunition and cash.

Khaled al-Batsh, head of the politburo of PIJ in Gaza, said on Wednesday: “We have every right to bomb Israel with our most advanced weapons and make the occupier pay a heavy price. We will not settle for attacking around Gaza, but we will bomb the center of the so-called State of Israel,” according to The Media Line.