Ready to respond to arrest of PIJ member, IDF orders closure of roads in Gaza area

The Israeli military ordered the closure of several major highways along the Gaza border on Tuesday morning as a precaution against possible attacks from the coastal enclave, hours after the arrest of a senior member of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the decision was made following an assessment of the situation during which the military identified an increase in activity by fighters linked to Islamic Jihad which constituted ” a direct threat of a possible attack on Israeli civilians”.

Closed highways included Route 4 from Zikim Junction to the Erez crossing; Route 34 from Yad Mordechai Junction to Nir Am Junction; and Route 232 from Nir Am Junction to Kerem Shalom Crossing; and access roads for farmers west of Highway 232.

The army also closed Zikim beach near the Gaza border and began blocking traffic between Ashkelon and Sderot.

It also closed several sites that overlook the strip, including the Sderot lookout and nearby Asaf Siboni viewing site, the Black Arrow memorial and Givat Nizmit lookout near Mefalsim, and Horseman Hill outside. of Kibbutz Nir Am. In 2018, an army bus was hit by an anti-tank guided missile at the Black Arrow site.

Along the same lines, the IDF also closed the Erez crossing to pedestrians entering and leaving Gaza. The border checkpoint is used daily by thousands of Palestinian workers.

Israel Railways announced that trains would stop running between the southern cities of Ashkelon and Netivot and that the nearby Sderot station would also be temporarily closed.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Prime Minister Yair Lapid would assess the situation with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, head of the Shin Bet security agency Ronen Bar, National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata, Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other officials. .

Late Monday night, the IDF carried out a raid to arrest a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, in which a Palestinian teenager was killed.

Bassem Saadi, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the West Bank, was arrested along with his son-in-law and aide, Ashraf al-Jada.

Some reports state that Saadi was also shot and injured during the incident. Later it was reported that he was injured after being bitten by a military dog ​​during his arrest, with video released of the event.

According to the Shin Bet, Saadi, 61, has been jailed and released seven times by Israel over the years.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank Bassem Saadi (left) and his son-in-law Ashraf al-Jada in an undated photo. (social media)

The Shin Bet said in recent months that Saadi “has worked even harder to restore the activities of the PIJ, in which he was behind the creation of a large military force of the organization in Samaria in general and in Jenin in particular,” referring to the northern West Bank.

“His presence was an important factor in radicalizing ISIS operatives in the field,” the Shin Bet added.

Palestinian gunmen pray before the funeral of a Palestinian man who was shot in an armed clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin on June 17, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

In response, the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad announced in a statement that it was declaring a state of “vigilance” and increasing the “readiness” of its fighters following Saadi’s arrest.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry identified the victim as 17-year-old Dirar al-Kafrayni. A second Palestinian was lightly injured, the ministry said.

A local wing of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing at Israeli troops operating in Jenin, and Israeli officials said troops returned fire to the gunmen who opened fire, hitting several of them.

The IDF and Border Police said a handgun, ammunition and cash were seized from Saadi and al-Jada during the operation. Al-Jada, a member of the PIJ, was also imprisoned in Israel, according to the Shin Bet.

Jenin is widely considered a hotbed of terrorist activity. Gunmen and other assailants who carried out several deadly terror attacks earlier this year came from the town and its refugee camp.

Tensions have remained high in the West Bank as Israeli security forces have stepped up raids and arrest operations following a deadly wave of terror attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people earlier this year.

In separate pre-dawn raids across the West Bank, troops arrested 12 wanted Palestinians, with violent clashes in some areas, the IDF said.

In the Far’a refugee camp, the IDF said that as troops arrested two terrorist suspects, dozens of Palestinians opened fire and threw rocks, Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices at the troops.

The IDF said the troops returned fire, hitting some of the rioters and Palestinian gunmen. According to Palestinian media, citing the Red Crescent medical service, five people were injured, one of them in serious condition.

No Israeli soldiers were injured in the operations, officials said.

Last week, two Palestinian gunmen were killed in an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

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