A gunman from the Izz ad-Din al- Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, photographed inside an underground tunnel in Gaza, in 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai issued a stern warning to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on Saturday, warning that the organization is "playing with fire" in challenging Israel.
In a YouTube video published by COGAT, Mordechai recounted, in Arabic, that Israel blew up a PIJ-owned terror tunnel two weeks ago and cautioned, "We are aware of the plot being waged by Palestinian Islamic Jihad against Israel. They are playing with fire with the residents of the Gaza Strip and at the expense of Palestinian reconciliation and the entire region."
In October, Hamas and Fatah announced they had reached a deal for Palestinian reconciliation, including the handing over of the Rafah border crossing to a unified government at the beginning of November and full administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a unified government by December 1. The deal, announced in Cairo, was brokered by Egyptian authorities and signed exclusively by Hamas and Fatah, failing to include the PIJ, a small yet active group in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2008, when it forcibly ousted the Palestinian Authority from the area.
On October 30th, the IDF blew up a terror tunnel via a series of air strikes near the border of the Gaza Strip, an act the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed killed 12 members of the militant group
View from Gaza as IDF blows up Hamas tunnel reaching into Israeli territory, October 30, 2017. (Courtesy)
The tunnel ran from the southern town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip to approximately two kilometers from the Israeli border community of Kissufim.
The PIJ was formed in 1981 with large funding from the Iranian government and its military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, and remains active in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The group has been classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, among other countries.
"So that it is clear: for every Islamic Jihad response, wherever it is, Israel will respond with force and determination, not only to the jihad but to Hamas as well," Mordechai continued. "We advise the leadership of the Islamic State in Damascus to exercise caution."
Mordechai also specifically issued a warning to the heads of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shallah and Ziad Nahaleh, holding them responsible for future actions taken against Israel.
Shallah was added to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list in 2006 for conspiracies to commit terrorism.
"The Palestinian Islamic State headquarters in Damascus and leaders of the organization-- Ramadan Shallah and Ziad Nahaleh - take matters quickly into your own hands, because you are the ones who will bear responsibility," he cautioned.
Propaganda video by Islamic Jihad in Gaza against Israel, November 2, 2017.
The PIJ responded to the video on Sunday in a statement, firing back, "the threats of the Zionist enemy to harm the organization's leadership are a declaration of war."
"These threats reveal the true intentions to carry on the aggression that was started by the Zionist enemy, which violated the cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt in 2014," the group added.
It continued, "it is our right to respond to any aggression, including the right to respond to the crime of attacking the tunnel east of Dir al-Balah, where 12 Mujahideen from Al-Qassam and Saraya al-Quds fell. To clarify the matter, our children and our people are also dear to us, as are our leaders, and the terrorism and the threats of the enemy do not frighten us."
"The settler is a murderer and a criminal and must understand that his hands are stained with the blood of our children and will not stop killing until he is cut off or he leaves our land," the statement read.
Hamas responded with a similar tone in a statement released on Sunday."The threats of the coordinator of the occupying government's actions, Yoav Mordechai, point to the terror and confusion of the Israeli entity from the reaction to the crime of blowing up the tunnel with the fighters," the statement said.Yasser Okbi and Reuters contributed to this article.