Military court extends detention of Islamic Jihad leader that sparked Gaza conflict

Bassem Saadi ordered held until August 21; Israel has declared it has no intention of freeing him, after the terror group sought to condition last week’s ceasefire on his release

Bassem Saadi, head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in the West Bank, arrives for a remand hearing at the Ofer prison, outside of Jerusalem, on August 16, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Bassem Saadi, head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in the West Bank, arrives for a remand hearing at the Ofer prison, outside of Jerusalem, on August 16, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A military court on Tuesday further extended the remand of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad member, whose arrest at the beginning of the month sparked a round of fighting between Israel and the terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The court at the Ofer military base ordered that Bassem Saadi be held for another six days, until August 21.

Saadi, the leader of the terror group in the West Bank, was arrested on August 1 by Israeli troops in the Palestinian city of Jenin. The PIJ in response announced it was declaring a state of alert. The Israel Defense Forces, saying it had concrete indications of an imminent attack on the Gaza border, put the area on lockdown for several days.

The lockdown was maintained for four days amid concerns that PIJ would try to fire anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets along the border. Eventually, the IDF launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza against a senior PIJ commander and several anti-tank guided missile squads, which prompted rocket fire from the Strip.

After nearly three days of fighting a ceasefire agreement was signed, which reportedly included “Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of” Saadi and another Palestinian detainee, Khalil Awawdeh, a terror group spokesperson said.

Israel has no intention of releasing the prisoners early, officials said after the ceasefire. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said last week he was “not familiar with a promise to release terrorists.”

Last week UN’s Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said his office dispatched a team to visit Saadi.

Wennesland said the visit was part of the UN’s commitments in the ceasefire that brought an end to the three-day conflict between Israel and PIJ.

“I reiterate that the ceasefire in Gaza is very fragile and I call on all sides to preserve the calm,” Wennesland said on Twitter.

PIJ, meanwhile, has threatened to resume fighting if Israel fails to release Saadi and Awawdeh, who is currently on a hunger strike in protest of his detention without charge.

The Ofer court, located in the West Bank, has extended Saadi’s detention twice already since his arrest. There was no immediate statement from the terror group in response to Tuesday’s decision.

Bassem Saadi is seen at a military court in the West Bank, August 11, 2022. (Doron Kadosh/Army Radio, courtesy)

Saadi, 61, has been jailed and released by Israel seven times over the years, according to the Shin Bet.

The security service said that in recent months Saadi “worked even harder to restore PIJ activities, in which he was behind the creation of a significant military force of the organization in Samaria in general and in Jenin in particular,” referring to the northern West Bank.

“His presence was a significant factor in the radicalization of the organization’s operatives in the field,” the Shin Bet added.

Tensions have remained high in the West Bank, as Israeli security forces stepped up arrest raids and operations following a deadly wave of terror attacks against Israelis that left 19 people dead earlier this year.

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