Palestinian militants issue warning to Israel
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Ziyad Al-Nakhala said on Monday that his militants would take up arms again if Israel violates the terms of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended three days of airstrikes and rocket attacks.
Israel and the PIJ agreed on Sunday to a ceasefire, which came into effect shortly before midnight. The truce, facilitated by Egyptian negotiators, ended three days of rocket attacks by the PIJ and airstrikes by Israel, which left dozens of Palestinians dead.
In a speech on Monday, Al-Nakhala called the PIJ’s operation a “victory.” While no Israelis were killed by the 1,000 or so rockets his group launched from Gaza, Al-Nakhala said that the PIJ’s campaign nevertheless demonstrated “unity” among the various militant factions operating in Gaza.
Hamas, the largest of these groups and the governing authority of the Palestinian enclave, did not take part in the attacks.
Al-Nakhala told his supporters that “if the enemy does not abide by what we agreed on through the Egyptian mediator, we will resume fighting again, and God will do with us what he wills,” according to a translation published by several Israeli news outlets.
In Israel, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office warned that if the ceasefire is violated by the PIJ, “the State of Israel maintains the right to respond strongly.”
The terms of the agreement have not been made public. However, as negotiations took place on Sunday, Al-Nakhala told reporters that his side demanded the release of Khalil Awawda and Bassem Saadi. The former is a PIJ operative on hunger strike in an Israeli prison, while the latter is the group’s West Bank leader, who was arrested by Israeli forces in a raid last Monday.
Israel did not agree to release either man, officials briefed reporters on Monday. The Times of Israel reported that West Jerusalem has “no intention” of turning over either prisoner.
Saadi’s arrest was largely responsible for kicking off the latest round of escalation between Israel and the PIJ, which was the bloodiest since Israel and Hamas fought a 15-day war in May 2021. After the arrest operation, in which a Palestinian teenager was killed, the PIJ’s operatives were placed on high alert, and Israel launched a series of strikes on the organization beginning on Friday, citing an immediate threat to the state from the group.
Starting on Friday with an airstrike on the home of PIJ commander Taysir al-Jabari, ‘Operation Breaking Dawn’ resulted in the destruction of PIJ rocket sites, warehouses, and observation posts, as well as the deaths of several of its operatives, including another commander, Khaled Mansour.
Palestinian officials say that 44 people have been killed in Gaza since Friday, including more than a dozen children, while over 300 more were wounded. Israel has denied responsibility for some of these deaths, blaming them on failed Palestinian rocket launches.
As the ceasefire held on Monday afternoon, Israel removed its blockades on Gaza and allowed trucks carrying fuel and food to enter the enclave. Israeli residents near the Gazan border were told that they no longer needed to remain near bomb shelters, and schools, businesses, and public transportation in these areas returned to normal.