IDF captures top terror leader, Israel braces for major response

Roads, train closed in South due to fear of retaliation for arrest of the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Train service in the Ashkelon area and certain roads near the Gaza border were closed Tuesday morning as a precaution against possible retaliation from Gaza for the IDF’s capture Monday of a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist in Jenin.

IDF intelligence reported that the terror group’s leadership in the coastal enclave may order its forces to shell the transportation routes with anti-tank fire in response to the arrest of Bassam al-Saadi, its chief of operations in Judea and Samaria.

Out of concern for civilian casualties, traffic was halted while army forces were put on high alert.

“The preventive measures were in place to prevent the group from bringing about a deterioration of the security along the border,” said one senior military source.

After news of the arrest broke, with the IDF announcement saying that al-Saadi had been slightly injured by an army dog, PIJ issued a threat “in response to the aggression against the senior commander Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi and his family.

“We warn Israel against harming the life of al-Saadi and are ready to respond to the aggression with force if it does not stop.”

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A video posted online shows IDF troops chasing the 61-year-old terrorist down and across a street; he fell down at one point and seemingly protested before a soldier grabbed his arm.

The army also arrested al-Saadi’s son-in-law, who acted as his close aide, and handed them both over to the Shabak for interrogation.

Israel considers al-Saadi a top target. Military intelligence found him to be behind the significant buildup of PIJ forces within the Palestinian Authority over the past year. They also believe him to be the cause of the radicalization of many Palestinians against Israel, especially in Jenin, and responsible for sending out many of the group’s suicide terrorists over the years who have come from the city.

Al-Saadi had been arrested seven times in the past for his involvement in terror activities, which stretch back to the early 1990s. He was one of the 400 Palestinian terrorists banished to Lebanon in 1992, and then spent seven years in jail in the early 2000s with an extra stint in administrative detention.

According to a Ynet report, the last time he was arrested, in March 2021, he was apprehended in Jenin and then released the same day.

During Monday’s operation, which included Border Police, Nahal Brigade soldiers and IDF troops dressed as Palestinians, the forces encountered live fire from those trying to protect al-Saadi, who had barricaded himself inside a building.

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Explosive devices were also thrown at the troops, who suffered no casualties as they fired back, killing one terrorist and injuring several others, according to a joint police and IDF statement.

The IDF has conducted dozens of arrest raids over the past several months in Jenin, considered one of the biggest hotbeds of terrorism in Judea and Samaria, with Palestinian Authority influence waning rapidly.

A few thousand terrorists have been captured overall during what has been dubbed “Operation Breaking the Wave” against Palestinian terrorists that began at the end of March after a series of attacks in several Israeli cities.