The army remains on high alert along the Gaza border, fearing an Islamic Jihad response to Israel’s destruction of a cross-border tunnel last week.
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Senior defense officials believe that Islamic Jihad is planning a revenge attack. They claim that despite pressure on the group to refrain from responding, so as not to disrupt the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, it will not be able to let that pass.
Fourteen people, most of them Islamic Jihad members, were killed when the tunnel was blown up. The army’s decision to retrieve some of the bodies and keep them as bargaining chips for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers that Hamas has been holding in the Gaza Strip for over three years has also added to the tension on both sides of the border.
Islamic Jihad has repeatedly declared on social media that it intends to avenge the tunnel’s destruction and the deaths of its operatives. It also claimed the destroyed tunnel wasn’t the only one it has and vowed to continue bolstering its tunneling capabilities.
Defense officials have not denied the possibility of a response from the group in the West Bank, rather than in Gaza.
In an effort to keep civilians out of harm’s way, the army has barred Israeli farmers from working land near the Gaza border ever since the tunnel was destroyed.
The fact that the IDF, based on on the same social media posts, identifies a motivation among the Islamic Jihad to undertake a counter attack, is worrying senior security officials. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio on Wednesday that “The defense establishment is ready for any developments.”
“We live in a tough neighborhood with a lot of tension, sometimes with Hezbollah, sometimes with Hamas and sometimes with [Islamic] Jihad. There are also nonstop attempts to commit attacks in Judea and Samaria,” Lieberman added, refering to the West Bank.
Lieberman's comments were consistent with what the head of the army’s Home Front Command, Tamir Yadai, told a conference in Caesarea, “We attacked a tunnel near the border, and as of now, nobody has responded. But I believe there will yet be a response.”
In preparation for that possibility, the army deployed Iron Dome antimissile batteries in the south immediately after the tunnel’s destruction and took other defensive measures.