Islamic Jihad leader arrested after Israel warns of response to group’s ‘attack plot’
By Kaamil Ahmed
Israel arrested a leader of Palestinian group Islamic Jihad in the occupied West Bank on Monday, its military said as tension between the two sides continue to rise.
The arrest of the senior Islamic Jihad figure, who the group identified as 47-year-old Tareq Qa’adan, came after Israel threatened it would respond to an attack it believed the group was planning in response to Israel destroying one of its cross-border tunnels two weeks ago, killing 10 group fighters and two belonging to Hamas.
“We are aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group plans against Israel. They are playing with fire at the expense of all of Gaza’s residents” said Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the Israeli military authority in the occupied Palestinian territories in an Arabic message on Saturday night.
He warned Israel would give a “harsh and determined” response that would target Islamic Jihad’s Damascus-based leaders as well as the Hamas movement, which has ruled Gaza for the past decade – a message echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
Israel also announced last week that it had recovered the bodies of five Islamic Jihad fighters from the destroyed tunnel, which crossed from Gaza into Israeli territory.
Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said Sunday that the deaths of its fighters “would not go unpunished.”
“Our account with them will not be closed except with a response,” he said.
The U.N. also voiced its concern about the threat of an imminent attack by the Islamic Jihad and the potential repercussions, in particular on an ongoing reconciliation process between the leading Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas to bring Gaza back under the control of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.
“The reckless actions and statements of militants in Gaza risk a dangerous escalation. Palestinians have embarked on a course to solve the humanitarian crisis in the Strip and bring back the legitimate authorities. They should not be distracted by extremists,” tweeted Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. envoy for the Middle East peace process.