Islamic Jihad says conditions for ceasefire included freeing terrorists

Israel denies agreeing to any PIJ conditions other than each side ceasing to fire.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed it agreed to Sunday’s 11:30 p.m. ceasefire because it scored successes, including the freeing of terrorists from Israeli jails.

Arab media reported a PIJ statement that read in part, “Egypt will invest efforts and will be committed to bring about the release of Khalil al-Awawada and transfer him to (medical) treatment, as well as to work for the release of the prisoner Bassam al-Saadi as soon as possible.”

Al-Awawda, 40, has been in administrative detention in Israel’s Ayalon Prison since December. The PIJ terrorist has been on a hunger strike for almost five months, and the organization claims he is in “life-threatening” condition in the prison’s hospital wing.

Last Monday’s arrest in Jenin of Basam al-Saadi, the head of PIJ operations in Judea and Samaria, was the direct cause of the IDF’s Operation Breaking Dawn that took place over the weekend. The PIJ had threatened to hit Israel with rockets if he wasn’t released.

Many transportation routes, including roads and trains, were closed throughout the South for several days as a result, with some communities basically in lockdown. This led to complaints from residents that the terror group was scoring a victory without even having to fire a shot.

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The IDF then went into preemptive mode Friday afternoon, with missile strikes against PIJ rocket units headed for the Gazan border, as well as the assassination of the group’s head of missile operations. Over the course of the Sabbath and Sunday, elite army units, intelligence forces and the air force worked together to hit some 170 PIJ sites, while the PIJ launched some 1,100 rockets and mortars at Israel.

Several Israelis were lightly hurt as a result, mainly while running to shelters or being overcome by panic attacks. The Iron Dome defense system intercepted some 96% of the missiles headed toward populated areas, including a few shot toward Tel Aviv. Some property damage was recorded in places like Sderot and Ashkelon from the rockets that managed to get through.

The IDF said that it managed to eliminate “the senior leadership” of the Iranian proxy group, which is second only to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Channel 11 reported Sunday that al-Awawda had demanded his own release as a condition for returning calm to the area, even before the IDF operation began. Reporter Elior Levy said Palestinian sources told him that there was an agreement from their point of view that in exchange for a ceasefire, al-Awawda’s detention will not be renewed, “and they will see it as a sign of goodwill on Israel’s part.”

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Israel has flatly denied agreeing to the release of any PIJ prisoners.

“A ceasefire is exactly that,” officials said. “The PIJ stops firing, we stop firing. We will not agree to accept any other demand for a ceasefire or stopping Israeli actions.”

Israel also made clear that if the rocket attacks continue, the IDF will continue hitting the PIJ, as its target bank is not yet exhausted.