Amid war of words, IDF nabs top Islamic Jihad official in West Bank

Arrest comes after rare warning to terror group over suspected plot to carry out attack against Israel in retaliation for Gaza tunnel explosion

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: IDF soldiers arrest a Palestinian man in the Dheisheh refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on December 8, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: IDF soldiers arrest a Palestinian man in the Dheisheh refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on December 8, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli forces arrested a top commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the West Bank early Monday morning, a day after Jerusalem warned the group amid rising tensions over Gaza.

The Shin Bet security service confirmed that Tariq Qa’adan was picked up by the Israel Defense Forces in Arrabeh, southwest of Jenin, in the northern West Bank.

Qa’adan serves as a senior officer in the Gaza-based terror group’s West Bank wing, the Shin Bet said.

A Shin Bet official said Qa’adan was arrested “for being a member of a terrorist group.”

IDF soldiers also arrested 13 other Palestinian suspects in overnight raids in the West Bank, the army said.

Qa’adan’s arrest came two days after Israel released a stern warning to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, saying that it was aware the terror group was planning to carry out an attack in retaliation to the IDF’s demolition of one of its attack tunnels that crossed from Gaza into Israeli territory last month.

On Saturday night, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who runs the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison office with the Palestinians, recorded a YouTube video in Arabic in which he addressed the terror group’s leaders in Syria, warning that Israel knew of their plans and was prepared to respond to them.

“We are aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is planning against Israel,” Mordechai said.

“Let it be clear: Any attack by the Islamic Jihad will be met with a powerful and determined Israeli response, not only against the Jihad, but also against Hamas,” warned the general, formally known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

On Sunday, the terror group said it would not back down on its “right” to retaliate against Israel for the tunnel explosion, which led to the death of 12 terror group members — 10 from Islamic Jihad, including two commanders, and two members of Hamas’s military wing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded later in the day by warning terror groups not to test the country.

“These days, there are still those who toy with trying renewed attacks on Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We will take a very strong hand against anyone who tries to attack us or attacks us from any sector.”

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