The recent killing of three senior members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip highlighted the need for Israel to take a proactive approach to combating terrorism. The successful operation, dubbed Shield and Arrow, by the IDF and Shin Bet showcased their innovative and strategic thinking.
This offensive initiative carried out through a clever deception tactic was reminiscent of previous operations such as “Black Belt” and “Breaking Dawn,” which also targeted high-ranking officials of the Islamic Jihad.
Recent estimates in Israel suggest that Hamas is currently more focused on improving the economic situation in the Gaza Strip and enhancing its military capabilities rather than engaging in military escalation.
In addition, their military capabilities have not yet fully recovered from the previous “Guardian of the Walls” operation, and Israel has successfully blocked the offensive terrorist tunnels that were a critical strategic asset for both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. This was achieved through military operations and the construction of a smart fence that can detect tunnels near the border.
Israel’s strategy is to minimize Hamas’s involvement in the Gaza Strip conflict and create tension between it and the Islamic Jihad, using a divide-and-conquer approach. This way, if a limited military conflict arises, Israel will only face the Islamic Jihad’s firepower, which is weaker than all the terrorist organizations led by Hamas combined.
The Islamic Jihad lacks the necessary military capabilities to engage in a limited conflict with Israel on its own. As a result, they may attempt to involve Hamas in the conflict.
It is possible that the delay in a response from the Islamic Jihad to the killing of their senior officials may be due to this strategy. This is a highly unusual occurrence, as Israel is accustomed to swift responses to such actions.
In addition to their desire to launch a joint campaign with Hamas and other terrorist organizations, the Islamic Jihad may also plan to retaliate against Israel using a tit-for-tat approach. They may be operating on two fronts: trying to convince Hamas to join them in a military campaign against Israel, while simultaneously waging a psychological war against Israeli citizens, causing tension and emergency situations in the southern regions.
Is Islamic Jihad waiting for Israeli concessions?
THE ISLAMIC Jihad may also be waiting for concessions from Israel in exchange for a ceasefire mediated by Egypt, only to violate it when Israel is unprepared.
Israel must continue to pursue a proactive and creative offensive strategy to combat this threat. Currently, the Islamic Jihad is holding Israeli citizens hostage and dictating the agenda for Israel. This situation cannot be allowed to continue in the long term and it is crucial for the Israeli leaders to act accordingly.
Israel needs to send a clear message to Hamas and Islamic Jihad that any attack or security tensions in the south will result in a major military operation in the Gaza Strip, including the elimination of senior members of the terrorist organizations. Israel should set a red line with a specific time frame to determine when to take action, thereby regaining the initiative.
Additionally, Israel should maintain its security preparations and thwart any attempted attacks from the Gaza Strip, responding with an immediate and forceful retaliation that is disproportionate to the attempted attack. Eliminating senior officials of the Islamic Jihad may enhance Israel’s deterrence in the short term, but not enough in the long run.
To effectively deter Hamas and other terrorist organizations, Israel must carry out a significant military operation that targets not only the leadership but also infrastructure, assets and manpower at various levels. Israel should act against civilian infrastructure linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, such as residential towers, at the first phase of the operation, rather than act gradually. The key for Israel is to maintain the initiative and avoid being dragged into a reactive position.
Israel needs to continue to initiate and act in an offensive and innovative way to effectively counter the terrorist threat in the Gaza Strip.
The writer has a Ph.D. in political studies. He is a military strategy and national security expert, and a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) and at the Israel Defense and Security Forum (Habithonistim).