IDF road closures near Gaza continue, some reservists deployed

All roads heading west of route 232 had been closed in both directions, as well as Route 4 from the Zikim Junction to the Erez crossing.

 Israeli soldiers and police block roads near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 4, 2022.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
Israeli soldiers and police block roads near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 4, 2022.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

The IDF called up reservists to deploy along the Gaza Strip as the military continued to close the roads in the area for the second day in a row on Wednesday; this was done due to concerns of an attack after Israeli security forces arrested a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative in the West Bank.

Following a situational assessment, the IDF called around 100 reservists, mainly security officers for communities in the Gaza envelope, for temporary assistance in securing the area.

The arrest of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader

The call-up came as tensions increased after Bassem Saadi, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, was arrested along with his son-in-law overnight on Monday during a raid in Jenin. He was seen being dragged by forces and was slightly bitten by a military dog during his arrest.

The security cabinet heard an overview of the situation from senior security figures, including the IDF chief of staff and head of intelligence. The ministers discussed measures to protect the security of Gaza envelope residents.

 A militant attends the funeral of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman, who was killed by IDF in Jenin in the West Bank March 1, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA) A militant attends the funeral of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman, who was killed by IDF in Jenin in the West Bank March 1, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that the security forces have been working for months to thwart terror attacks as part of Operation Break the Wave, and that it was Israel’s “only goal.”

“We will continue this operational activity where and when required,” he said. “No threat will divert us.”

What has been closed?

Speaking during a Blue and White/New Hope faction meeting, Gantz said that Israel “will act with determination to restore normalcy to the area surrounding Gaza, and if it is not possible for them to return to normalcy, there will be no normalcy inside Gaza either. If normalcy returns, all residents of the area will benefit.”

Following Saadi’s arrest, the IDF raised its alert level in the south and closed roads close to the border with the Gaza Strip to civilian vehicles over fears of sniper fire or anti-tank missile attacks.

PIJ is known to have anti-tank guided missiles and has targeted both civilian and military vehicles, killing Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers.All roads heading west of Route 232 had been closed in both directions, as well as Route 4 from the Zikim junction to the Erez crossing, Route 34 from Yad Mordechai junction to the Nir Am crossing, and Route 232 from Nir Am to Kerem Shalom.

Zikim Beach, which lies just north of the Gaza Strip, has also been closed to visitors, and train service between Ashkelon and Sderot has been canceled. The Erez crossing, the main crossing between Israel and Gaza, has likewise been closed. In addition, the Black Arrow monument, Givat Kobi Lookout in Sderot, the Hill of the Bells (Givat Ha’Pamonim) in Nir Am, and Givat Nazmit in Mefalsim have also been closed.

Classes at Sapir College in Sderot will take place online until the end of the week.

According to Walla News, the IDF will conduct another situational assessment on Wednesday morning to decide whether to open the roads and restore train service in the south.

"Our policy is clear: whoever wants to work and live alongside us will, we extend a hand. With the second hand, we will smite whoever seeks to harm Israeli civilians and cause terror."

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz

De-escalating situation with Israel, Hamas, PIJ

Hebrew media reports said that both Qatar and Egypt are trying to mediate with Hamas and PIJ in order to de-escalate the situation.

Though Israel insists that it is not interested in a new conflict with terror groups in the enclave, Gantz warned on Tuesday that the IDF would respond forcefully should PIJ carry out an attack.

“Our policy is clear: whoever wants to work and live alongside us, will we extend a hand,” he said. “With the second hand, we will smite whoever seeks to harm Israeli civilians and cause terror.”

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.