(Haaretz) 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.
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Anti-rocket Iron Dome batteries have been deployed in central Israel.
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, saying 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 shot down 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.”
An agreement was signed over the weekend by Russia, America and Jordan on a cease-fire in southern Syria which requires all foreign forces, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Shi’ite militias operated by Iran, to leave Syria.
As it stands however, the agreement does not set any deadlines, and understandings between the parties involved currently allow for the IRGC and Iran’s proxy forces to withdraw only a short distance from the Israeli border, at least in the near term. This, and by the fact that the superpowers seem unwilling to take genuine measures to kick Iran out of Syria, deeply troubles Israel defense officials.
Warning against retaliation
Over the weekend, the Israeli army warned the commanders of Islamic Jihad in a video 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 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.
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.