Senior Israeli officials say that they are pleased with the way the ceasefire with Palestinian Islamic Jihad has held up overnight.
“We can now start looking toward the next phase,” says one of the officials who briefed Israeli reporters Monday morning.
The officials stress that Israel embarked on the three-day operation “not by our choice.”
They say that Islamic Jihad terrorists, especially the two regional commanders assassinated during Operation Breaking Dawn in Gaza, were preparing to intensify their operations against Israel.
Israel was aware that the arrest of senior PIJ commander Bassam al-Saadi in Jenin would increase tensions, but did not expect it to be the spark that set off such a serious escalation, according to the officials.
De-escalation was Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s primary concern. Diplomatic efforts by other countries to pressure PIJ to rein in its threats against Israel did not play out initially, say the officials. Israel also limited movement near the Gaza border in an attempt to reduce friction and to avoid providing targets for PIJ snipers.
“But we couldn’t keep holding the Gaza border area in that situation, and our prior efforts failed to prevent the intention to carry out shooting attacks, and we understood we were moving toward an operation,” says an official.
“Then we realized that Islamic Jihad does not intend to leave this issue without operating, and operating in a significant way.”
Israel understood from the outset that Hamas would not join in the fighting and that it would be fighting only against PIJ.
The operation was designed to stop planned anti-tank and sniper attacks. “There was also an opportunity [to strike] the commander of their northern sector,” says an official.