Amid increased tension on both its northern and southern borders, Israel has deployed Iron Dome batteries in the Gush Dan region in central Israel, it was cleared for publication on Tuesday.
The deployment of the batteries in an area that encompasses Tel Aviv and other central Israeli cities comes amid threats from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) after Israel destroyed one of its cross-border attack tunnels two weeks ago, killing 12 terrorists who were inside.
While the army has not called up reservists, the IDF also has upped its readiness along the Gaza border, forbidding farmers and other civilians from approaching close to the Hamas-controlled enclave, and closing down three tourists site along the Strip.
Work on Israel’s new underground barrier with Gaza has also been affected by the increased tension. While work has not stopped, workers must be accompanied by the army to work sites out of fear of sniper fire.
The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat
reported on Tuesday that Islamic Jihad has been watching the movements of IDF troops and civilians on the Gaza border, using binoculars and other surveillance equipment. The report stated that the terrorist group also has upped its readiness to the highest level.The IDF arrested senior PIJ operative Tariq Qa’adan
in the West Bank town of Arrabe, south of Jenin, early Monday morning, the army and Shin Bet internal security agency said.
A war of words broke out between Israel and PIJ shortly after the destruction of the tunnel, which was detected using advanced technology and neutralized inside Israeli territory using a controlled explosion.
On Sunday, Khaled al-Batash, a senior PIJ official in Gaza said his group has other choices to “punish” Israel for killing its members who had been working on the tunnel for more than a year.
“Our message to Israel: Your hands, drenched in the blood of our children, will not stop killing until they are cut off or expelled from our land and country,” warned the statement.
“The enemy’s terror and threats do not frighten us and will not deter our leadership from the path of Jihad – the principle of our defense and resistance.”
Responding to Batash, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen.Yoav “Poly” Mordechai warned that the group is “playing with fire;” that Israel is “aware of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s plot that is being formed against Israel;” and that the IDF would respond with force against Hamas, the authority in the Gaza Strip.
“It should be clear: any response by Islamic Jihad, whatever it may be, will be responded to by Israel with power and determination not only against Islamic Jihad but also against Hamas. We advise the Islamic Jihad leadership in Damascus to be careful and get things under control,” he continued.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the tension with PIJ
, saying on Saturday that Israel holds Hamas responsible for any attacks from the Strip and warning that “we will take a very firm stance against anyone who tries to attack us.”
Islamic Jihad responded that it would see any attack on its leadership as a declaration of war.
US special envoy Jason Greenblatt took to Twitter early Tuesday morning, saying PIJ provocations against Israel threaten Gaza’s civilian population and are dangerous.
“Extremist statements & provocation vs. Israel by Islamic Jihad significantly harm the people of Gaza & are very dangerous,” he wrote. “The PA must resume full responsibility in Gaza. [The] US is working with the PA , Israel, Egypt & others to try to improve the situation. Gaza deserves better.”Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.