A Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist attempted to place an explosive device near the security fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip on Sunday, but his actions ended up setting off a different explosive chain of events than he could have never imagined. After Israeli soldiers killed the would-be terror bomber, Gaza terrorists responded by launching multiple barrages of rockets at Israel. The IDF reacted by striking Islamic Jihad targets in not just Gaza, but Syria as well, according to the IDF Twitter feed.
IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter the IDF counterstrike occurred near the Syrian capital of Damascus. “A day that started with another (2nd in 4 days) failed Islamic Jihad attack against Israel, with dozens of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, ended with an IDF strike on key Islamic Jihad targets in Damascus. Whatever the night brings, we are ready,” he tweeted.
The unusual public claim of responsibility by the IDF for attacks in Syria came after Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for bombing Israel on Sunday evening in a statement posted to their website. It also follows ominous warnings by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just last week, during a visit to Israeli communities in the south at risk of Gaza rockets, Netanyahu was paraphrased by a press release from his office as telling local leaders that “Israel was prepared for any scenario, including a wide-ranging operation.”
Sunday’s spike in conflict really heated up when Islamic Jihad launched their rockets. As of mid-evening in Israel, most of the initial waves of Gaza rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, according to Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Dan Porat. In comments on Twitter on Sunday evening, Porat reported that 23 rockets had been launched “from #Gaza towards Israeli towns and cities in the past 3 hours”. Those not taken down by Iron Dome landed in open spaces, according to the post. Twitter posts by the Israeli paramedic Magen David Adom group indicated that at the time, multiple rocket barrages had resulted in no injuries.
The incident that sparked the escalation in Gaza attacks—the attempted explosive attack—wasn’t the first time the slain Islamic Jihad terrorist had attempted something near the border fence. The IDF, as part of the Twitter thread detailing the attack and Israeli soldiers shooting back and hitting the terror group, tweeted this was “the third time these Islamic Jihad terrorists in #Gaza attempted to plant explosives along Israel’s security fence. We ensured this was their last.”
In the Islamic Jihad website post, the terror group said the rocket onslaught was in response to the killing of their terrorist, without noting that they had instigated the incident. While such responses to the killing of terrorists is not unusual, Sunday’s rocket attack may have been exaggerated due to a new policy of Israel to capture slain terrorists’ bodies to use in negotiations for two Israeli bodies held by Hamas. Islamic Jihad alluded to the activity in their message as part of the reason for their rocket attack.
The bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul have been held by Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. After repeated attempts to enlist international pressure on Hamas to release the Israelis, The Times of Israel reported that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett decided to start capturing terrorists’ bodies in an effort to reach a deal for Goldin and Shaul. The report said Bennett announced the plan last week in an interview on the 103FM radio station and on Sunday that took effect as an IDF bulldozer entered Gaza and retrieved the slain terrorist.
On Twitter in a Hebrew post translated into English by Google, Bennett defended the approach, highlighting that Hamas continues to hold two Israeli bodies and that the slain terrorist had been trying to “murder (!) Israelis.”
Looking at the bigger picture, former United States Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt responded to an IDF tweet showing over a dozen locations in Israel threatened by a Gaza rocket barrage by noting that such actions by Gaza terrorists are hurting their own people.
Tweeted Greenblatt, “Hamas/PIJ just cause suffering for Palestinians. Everyone must recognize that to solve the conflict Hamas/PIJ must put their weapons down & recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Palestinian leadership must end its bitter leadership divide. Palestinians go nowhere without this.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, February 23, 2020)