Israel Extends Gaza Border Roadblocks, Travel Restrictions for Third Day Fearing Attack

The IDF ordered closures along the Gaza border amid growing fears of retaliatory strikes against Israelis following the arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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IDF soldiers block one of the roads near the Gaza strip, on Tuesday.
IDF soldiers block one of the roads near the Gaza strip, on Tuesday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Israeli forces blocked roads along the Gaza border and stopped rail traffic on Wednesday for a second consecutive day, fearing retaliation over the arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank earlier this week.

Defense officials have decided to extend the restrictions at least through Thursday, citing potential attacks against civilians.

One local resident told Haaretz about the challenges he faces just getting to a nearby supermarket – a journey of less than 2 miles. “They have put up roadblocks inside the communities adjacent to the border fence,” he said.

"We’re not allowed to go running or cycling and there are signs everywhere, warning us that we are under surveillance from the Gaza Strip," the resident added. "People are scared and don’t know what to do with themselves. In some communities, half the residents – anyone who can afford to – have packed up and left."

On Monday the IDF arrested Islamic Jihad commander Bassam al-Saadi along with two other people in the West Bank city of Jenin. A Palestinian man was killed in the exchange of fire that erupted during the operation.

Security camera footage of al-Saadi's arrest showed Israeli soldiers dragging the Islamic Jihad commander. The footage seems to show al-Saadi being injured in the preceding exchange of fire.

Al-Saadi, 62, is one of the Islamic Jihad's top officials in the West Bank. The Israeli army has arrested him several times in the past. He has spent a total of 15 years in Israeli prisons.

Israeli Military Police at a checkpoint near the Gaza border, on Tuesday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Egyptian intelligence officials have been holding talks with Gaza faction leaders in an attempt to prevent escalation between Israel and the Strip.

The Egyptian mediators noted that two days of relative calm since al-Saadi's arrest enable further negotiations with Gaza factions, as sources in Cairo and Gaza say talks are focusing on humanitarian relief for the Strip.

On Tuesday the army also closed major roads near the Gaza border, including the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel. It also bolstered the Iron Dome missile defense system following intelligence assessments that Islamic Jihad intends to retaliate immediately.

Jack Khoury contributed to this report.

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