The Gaza Strip-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Sunday morning claimed one of its senior members, an engineer, was assassinated by Israel in Syria.
In a statement, the military wing of the PIJ, the al-Quds Brigades, said Ali Ramzi al-Aswad, 31, was shot dead by “agents of the Zionist enemy” in the Damascus area. The terror group said al-Aswad was a “leader” and an engineer.
The PIJ described al-Aswad’s killing as a “cowardly assassination bearing the fingerprints of the Zionist enemy.”
There were no further details on the alleged assassination. Syrian media outlets reported the killing took place in the Damascus suburb of Qudssaya.
The terror group said al-Aswad’s family originated from the northern city of Haifa and settled in a refugee camp in Syria following Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The PIJ said he joined the group and worked as an engineer, eventually becoming a senior commander.
“We hold the Zionist enemy responsible for this crime,” the PIJ said, vowing a response.
In an apparent reference to the assassination, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting said Israel would “get to the terrorists and the architects of terror everywhere.”
“Our forces are working around the clock to deal with the terrorists and thwart terror infrastructure. Dozens of terrorists were killed in the last month; many others were arrested. I repeat: All those who try to harm the citizens of Israel, they will pay with their lives,” Netanyahu said.
On Saturday night, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at a southern Israeli town, causing no damage or injuries. The attack came after four Palestinians, at least two of whom were members of terror groups, were shot dead Thursday by undercover Israeli forces during a daytime raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Yusuf Shreim, 29, a member of the military wing of the Hamas terror group, and Nidal Khazem, 28, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were targeted in the operation.
Over the past year, Gaza-based groups — notably Islamic Jihad — have repeatedly launched rockets at Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.
The military did not respond to the Saturday rocket attack with airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. As a matter of policy, Israel responds with airstrikes against Hamas assets in Gaza over rocket attacks.
The lack of airstrikes in response to the rocket attack, as well as no overnight arrest raids by the army in the West Bank, was thought to be tied to a Sunday meeting in Egypt aimed to help foster regional calm ahead of the sensitive Ramadan period, which begins at the end of this week.
Israeli, Palestinian, American, Egyptian, and Jordanian officials are set to convene in Sharm el-Sheikh for the second time, after a similar meeting last month.
Last week, a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip in response to a deadly Israeli West Bank raid landed in Israeli territory close to the border security barrier. Several hours later, Palestinians set off an explosive device near troops operating on the border.
There was no response to that rocket attack either, but the IDF struck a Hamas observation post following the border bombing.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks. Those tensions have ramped up even further in recent weeks, featuring a cycle of deadly Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.
Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 14 Israelis dead and several more seriously hurt.
At least 85 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.