With Tensions Still High on Gaza Border, IDF Considers Offensive

Police block roads near the border with the Gaza Strip on Friday. (Flash90)

Tensions on Israel’s border with Gaza are still high as restrictions in Israeli communities near the border continued for the fourth day in a row on Friday.

Israel fears an imminent attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) following the arrest of one of the group’s leaders in the Shomron earlier this week.

The IDF banned leaves for soldiers of the Gaza Division, while movement restrictions on southern Israeli communities could be extended for several days.

According to sources within the security apparatus, if the PIJ carries out an attack, Israel would respond with great force. The possibility of the IDF taking the initiative in an offensive is also being considered.

Behind the scenes, Israel is working to achieve calm through Egypt and Gaza’s ruling faction Hamas.

Meanwhile, the PIJ submitted three demands to the Egyptian intelligence service:

  • An end to Israeli arrest raids in Yehudah and Shomron – particularly in Jenin.
  • The release of Bassam al-Saadi, the PIJ official who was arrested on Monday.
  • The release of Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian resident of a village near Chevron, who has been on hunger strike for more than 140 days.

According to a Palestinian source, the PIJ would be prepared to waive the first two demands, but not Awawdeh’s release. If he were released, the group would then lift threats of attacks against Israel.

But Israel seems reluctant to meet that request.

During a security assessment on Thursday with heads of southern localities, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi did not guarantee that the restrictions imposed in southern Israel – closure of roads, ban on leaving certain localities – would soon be lifted.

Israel is also considering imposing additional sanctions on Gaza to increase pressure on the terrorist organization, such as reducing the fishing zone.

The tools at Israel’s disposal are quite limited, however, as significant restrictions are already imposed, such as banning the entry of Palestinian workers into Israel and closing border crossings.

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