Like Israel, Islamic Jihad on ‘High Alert’

YERUSHALAYIM -
An Iron Dome anti-missile system seen after it was deployed in central Israel, Tuesday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

Matching Israel’s increased security alert status, Islamic Jihad has placed its terror operatives “on the highest security footing,” the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper reported Tuesday.

Maariv quoted the report as saying that the move was due to “recent Israeli threats” against Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which was borne out by Israel’s deployment of Iron Dome missile units throughout southern and central Israel on Monday night.

That deployment was due to estimates by Israeli defense officials that Islamic Jihad is planning a major terror attack against Israel in the wake of the IDF’s recent demolition of a terror tunnel that ran under Israeli territory, in which a dozen of the group’s top terrorists were killed.

Israel believes that the terror group is set on avenging the deaths of those terrorists, and security officials said that when Israel responds to that vengeance attack — which is likely to be high profile — with a major military action in Gaza, Islamic Jihad, and probably Hamas, will probably begin firing missiles at Israeli civilian communities. That scenario could develop at any moment, and hence the deployment of the Iron Dome units, which will be used to deflect the Gaza missiles fired at Israeli population centers.

But the Al-Hayat report said that Islamic Jihad was undecided on what to do in the wake of the tunnel demolition. The group realizes that by taking action against Israel it was likely to elicit an Israeli response — which would, among other things, almost certainly destroy the nascent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

“We are in great pain, not only over their deaths, but because of how Israel is presenting itself as the winner in this demolition,” the Al-Hayat report quoted Islamic Jihad leaders as saying. “We are swallowing our tongues for now.”

However, the threat of an Islamic Jihad attack, even if it does not materialize, has negatively influenced the lives of Israelis living in the Gaza border area. A report on Channel One showed residents mostly taking shelter during the daylight hours, with the IDF allowing farmers access to their fields only at night, when it would be harder for Gaza terrorists to follow their movements from across the border.

IDF Southern Commander General Yoav Mordechai over the weekend issued a warning to Islamic Jihad not to act in response to the demolition of the tunnel. The IDF believes that the group is planning a major terror attack, but by doing so, “it is playing with fire on the backs of Gaza residents, and at the expense of its reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority. It is endangering the entire region. It should be clear that [to] any response by Islamic Jihad, Israel will respond with determination and power, not just against Islamic Jihad but against Hamas as well. We would recommend that Islamic Jihad be cautious in its actions,” Mordechai said.

Among those killed in the tunnel demolition were top Islamic Jihad terrorist Arafat Marshad, head of the group’s military wing, and his deputy, Hassan Abu Hasnin. Responding to the Israeli warning, Islamic Jihad said Sunday that “Israeli threats are the result of fear and concern over the Palestinian response to their crimes.”

IDF soldiers early Monday arrested a senior commander in the Islamic Jihad terror group. Tarak Kaadan, a resident of the village of Aarabe, south of Jenin, is one of the terrorists released in the exchange deal to release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, officials said. Officials said that Kaadan had emerged as a key leader of Islamic Jihad in Yehudah and Shomron, and was responsible for dissemination of incitement and organizing terror attacks.