Israel warns Islamic Jihad it’s aware of Gaza terror plot

‘You’re playing with fire,’ Defense Ministry’s Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai tells terror group in video, referring to its plans to retaliate for destruction of terror tunnel

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

In an Arabic video message, an Israeli general on Saturday publicly warned the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to abandon plans to carry out a retaliatory attack in response to Israel destroying the terrorist group’s attack tunnel that crossed from Gaza into Israel last month.

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who runs the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison office with the Palestinians, recorded a YouTube video 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 in Arabic. (This was mistranslated to the past tense in the English subtitles.)

“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, formerly known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the territories (COGAT).

Head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ramadan Abdullah Shallah meets with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran in February (photo credit: AP Photo/ Ebrahim Seyyedi Office of the Iranian President)
Ramadan Abdullah Shalah (right), head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, meets with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, February 2007 (AP/ Ebrahim Seyyedi Office of the Iranian President)

Mordechai’s video, which was released late Saturday night, addressed by name the terror group’s leader, Ramadan Shalah, and his deputy, Ziad Nakhaleh, who run the Gaza-based group from Damascus.

“Take control of things because you will be held responsible,” the general said.

On October 30, the Israel Defense Forces blew up the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s attack tunnel, which originated in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kissufim.

According to the army, the tunnel had been under surveillance the entire time that it was inside Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians.

Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement terrorist Arafat Abu Morshed during the funeral at the Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza of Palestinians killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on October 31, 2017. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Some 14 terrorists, mostly from the Iran-backed group, including two senior officers, were killed in the blast and its aftermath. The army said later that this was not the primary objective of the tunnel demolition.

The bodies of five terrorists who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory were recovered by the IDF, the army said.

The Hamas terrorist group, which runs the Gaza Strip, also lost members in the IDF attack.

In statements, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatened to avenge its fallen members. According to Palestinian media, Hamas encouraged the group to abstain from retaliating, both in order to prevent further escalation with Israel and to prevent the reconciliation talks it has been conducting with the Palestinian Authority from falling apart.

In his YouTube message, Mordechai referred to these reconciliation efforts, saying the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was “playing with fire” and potentially threatening them, as well as the safety of Gaza Strip residents.

The organization did not immediately respond to Mordechai’s video warning.

Earlier this month, a senior officer in the IDF’s Southern Command warned that the military suspected the terror group could retaliate over the tunnel demolition with attacks on soldiers serving near the border, rocket fire at southern Israeli communities or terror attacks in the West Bank.

“The [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad will have a hard time holding back,” said the unnamed senior official.

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