Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhaleh said Tuesday that he was planning for a war with Israel in the coming months, and that his group and Hamas coordinated the outbreak of the most recent round of fighting.
“The last escalation was only a live fire drill in preparation for the major campaign that is coming,” the Iran-backed terror group leader said during an interview with the Hezbollah-linked al-Mayadeen news outlet, according to Hebrew media reports.
Nakhaleh said that Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the Gaza-ruling terror organization that is sworn to Israel’s destruction, decided to spark the last round of fighting with the Israel Defense Forces while the two groups were in Egypt to discuss a truce with Israel. Egypt has long acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.
“We decided to fire at an IDF officer and a female soldier last Friday in cooperation with Hamas to respond to the killing of protesters at the March of Return,” Nakhaleh said, according to Channel 13 news. “This was decided while we were in Cairo. The Egyptians didn’t like the fact that this happened while we were in Cairo. Myself and Yahya Sinwar decided to continue the escalation,” he said, referring to Hamas’s Gaza chief.
“Between us and Hamas there is agreement on everything,” Nakhaleh said.
Nakhaleh, who was named the Islamic Jihad chief in September 2018, also claimed that if the last outbreak had continued for a few more hours, “it would have been possible to bombard Tel Aviv.”
The comments came less than 48 hours after the end of two days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza-based terrorists that saw nearly 700 rockets and mortars fired at Israel and four Israeli civilians killed.
In response to the onslaught, the Israel Defense Forces conducted over 300 strikes from the air and land, including a rare assassination of a terrorist operative whom the IDF said funneled money from Iran to terror groups in the Strip.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 29 Palestinians were killed by Israeli strikes, including two pregnant women and a baby. Israel said one of the women and the baby were killed in a failed rocket launch inside Gaza and not as a result of IDF actions. Israel said it only fired at terrorists and terror targets. At least 11 of the Gaza fatalities were members of terror groups, eight of them from Islamic Jihad, the groups confirmed.
The fighting was some of the heaviest seen since 2014’s 50-day war with Gaza, but tapered off late Sunday and early Monday, as Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad said a ceasefire had been reached.
The Israeli military on Monday warned that war with the impoverished Hamas-controlled enclave could be back on the horizon in days or weeks if Israel did not work to ease living conditions there.