The Israeli military took a number of steps on Monday to raise the alert level across the country. The move was apparently taken after Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad declared its intention to avenge the deaths of 12 members who were killed when the Israeli army blew up a tunnel under the Gaza-Israel border last month.
The past several days have seen Israel and Islamic Jihad exchanging threats. The coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, warned that Israel would hit senior members of Islamic Jihad if the group carried out terrorist attacks in revenge. Islamic Jihad announced that Israel’s threats were tantamount to a declaration of war, that the group has the means for a response of equal proportions, and that Israel should constantly be worried about an attack.
The escalation in Gaza comes amid rising tensions in the north of the country as well. On Saturday, the Israel Air Force intercepted a Syrian drone that entered the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights. Following the incident, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would act to foil “the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria.”
The Israeli army warned the commanders of Islamic Jihad in a video over the weekend that any attempt to attack Israel in retaliation to Israel’s attack would be met with great force.
“Two weeks ago, Israel blew up a terror tunnel inside sovereign Israeli territory,” said the Arabic-language video posted by the army’s coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. “We’re aware of the plot that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is concocting against Israel.
“It is playing with fire on the backs of residents of the Gaza Strip, and at the expense of the internal Palestinian reconciliation and the entire region,” the clip continued, referring to the recent reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.
“Just to be clear, Israel will respond forcefully and resolutely to any Islamic Jihad reaction whatsoever — not just against Jihad, but also against Hamas,” the video concluded. “We advise Islamic Jihad’s leadership in Damascus to exercise caution and keep things under control. Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s headquarters in Damascus and the organization’s leaders, Ramadan Shalah and Ziad Nakhala, you had better take things into your own hands quickly, because you’re the ones who will bear the responsibility.”
The clip was posted in the wake of an intelligence assessment that concluded though Islamic Jihad is under pressure from within the Gaza Strip, and especially from Hamas, to refrain from retaliating for the tunnel’s destruction, the organization has not abandoned its intention to perpetrate a revenge attack.