Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) officials in the Gaza Strip said that it was “premature” to talk about mediation efforts to end the fighting with Israel, which began shortly after the pre-dawn Israeli assassination of PIJ commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata and his wife.
The officials were responding to unconfirmed reports that claimed Egypt had launched consultations with Israel and the Gaza-based group in an attempt to reach a new ceasefire agreement.
“It’s premature to talk about mediation efforts or a ceasefire before the blood of our martyrs has dried,” PIJ spokesman Musab al-Braim said on Tuesday, adding that PIJ nevertheless “appreciates and respects any Arab mediation effort.”
Another PIJ spokesman, Daoud Shehab, also denied that Egypt or any other party have stepped in to end the latest flare-up of violence.
Five Palestinians were killed and 27 injured in the Israeli attacks, according to Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip.
Several PIJ leaders responded to the assassination of Abu al-Ata by declaring that their group was now at war with Israel. They also vowed to make Israel pay a “heavy price,” and accused the Israeli government of “crossing all redlines.”
The threats came as thousands of PIJ supporters attended the funeral of al-Ata in Gaza City hours after he was killed.
“Israel has declared open war on us,” said PIJ senior official Khaled al-Batsh. “We won’t allow Israel to change the rules of engagement, and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will pay the price and he will fail again.”
Batsh said that PIJ has enough rockets and men to continue the fight against Israel “and defend the resistance enterprise.”
Hamas said that the assassination of al-Ata would not go unpunished, and that it held Israel fully responsible for the consequences of its actions.
“The blood of our people and their leaders is a redline,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “This is a dangerous escalation and a continuation of the aggression and crimes against our people and the [Palestinian] resistance.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh accused Israel of seeking to create confusion in the Palestinian arena in order to undermine Palestinian unity.
“This aggression will increase our people’s adherence to their rights,” he said in a statement. “It will also strengthen unity between the Palestinian resistance groups. This crime is not disconnected from attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause. The policy of assassinations won’t succeed.”
The “Joint Operations Room” for several Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip said that its “initial response” to the assassination of the PIJ commander is a “clear message that the blood of our martyrs will not be wasted in vain.” Israel, it threatened, “will pay a very heavy price for its aggression and crime.”
In separate statements, PIJ and other smaller terror groups warned that their retaliation for the assassination of al-Ata was far from over. They also warned Israel against “exporting its internal crises” to the Palestinians, adding that targeted killings are a “redline.”
In Ramallah, the PA presidency condemned the killing of a Palestinian “citizen” in the Gaza Strip, in reference to the slain PIJ commander.
“The presidency condemns the ongoing Israeli crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip, and which resulted on the martyrdom of three people, including a citizen and his wife, and the wounding of his children when their home in Gaza City was targeted,” the PA said in a statement that did not mention al-Ata by name. “The presidency holds the occupation government fully responsible for the repercussions and the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip, and calls on the international community to oblige the Israeli government to immediately halt its aggression.”
The PA government in Ramallah also denounced the Israeli “aggression” on the Gaza Strip, and accused Netanyahu and the security establishment of “attempting to export their internal crises by concocting external wars.”