Senior Islamic Jihad Official Tells TML: ‘We Will Bomb the Center’ of Israel
Security forces have been on high alert around the Gaza Strip since the arrest of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader; retaliation against Israeli civilians feared
Israel’s military is bracing for an attack near the border with Gaza, but other areas might be at risk as well.
Khaled al-Batsh, head of the politburo of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, told The Media Line that central Israel is under threat by his organization.
“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,” Batsh said.
In an interview with The Media Line on Wednesday, Batsh made it clear that Islamic Jihad intends to retaliate for the arrest of its West Bank commander, Bassam al-Saadi, late on Monday night. “The Palestinian Islamic Jihad can’t sit silent and watch the Israeli crimes, and the spilling of Palestinian blood in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Batsh also denied that Hamas is trying to prevent the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) from attacking Israel, saying that contact between the organizations is ongoing. “No one attempts to stop us from using our right to stop the Israeli crimes,” he said.
“Our goal is to make the occupation pay for its crimes, and to prove that the Islamic Jihad will keep to its commitment to protect the Palestinian people and the resistance anywhere,” he added.
Israel’s Security Cabinet met on Wednesday for a briefing by the head of the Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar; the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi; and other intelligence officials about the high tension in the border area of the Gaza Strip.
Our goal is to make the occupation pay for its crimes, and to prove that the Islamic Jihad will keep to its commitment to protect the Palestinian people and the resistance anywhere
The Israeli government ministers were briefed about status of the border area and steps taken to protect its residents. The IDF blocked roads and halted rail traffic near the Gaza border, and heavily secured bus stations in the area in anticipation of a retaliatory attack from the PIJ.
Security officials in Israel claim that both armed forces and civilians are at risk, as the PIJ might attempt to take revenge for the arrest of Saadi, a senior leader in the organization, which took place in the West Bank city of Jenin. Videos of the arrest showing Saadi being dragged on the ground and being bit by a military dog went viral on social networks immediately after the arrest, causing rage among the terror group’s supporters. In an unusual step, Israeli security forces published a photo of Saadi after the arrest, in order to prove that he was still alive and calm the situation.
Eyal Hajbi, the security chief of Sha’ar HaNegev regional council, told The Media Line about the difficulties posed by being on high alert.
“Not one bullet was fired, yet we’re already acting like there is a war going on. People use roads that take 40 minutes instead of 5 minutes because of the roadblocks. Don’t get me wrong – it’s frustrating, but I understand where it’s coming from,” he said. “We want to prevent them [the PIJ] from getting a victory image, by bombing a vehicle or a sniper shooting a solider.”
Hajbi believes a PIJ revenge attack would come in the form of an anti-tank missile or a sniper attack. “If they wanted to retaliate by shooting rockets, they would have already done that. It’s these actions that require more preparation,” he explained. “And it’s dangerous because it can easily trigger an escalation. Don’t forget that ‘Guardian of the Walls,’ [the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas] started with anti-tank shooting from the Gaza Strip.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad can’t sit silent and watch the Israeli crimes, and the spilling of Palestinian blood in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip
While the IDF is blocking more and more roads around Gaza, the PIJ is keeping a fog around its plans, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty for the communities around the Gaza Strip.
“People here don’t really have a choice. We know where we live and accept the costs. But it’s inconvenient, and tense times like this make everyone more anxious in the long run,” Hajbi said.
An IDF official told the Media Line that “the Israeli military is prepared for all scenarios, including an escalation, and is reassessing the situation regularly.”