TEL AVIV – The Iron Dome air defense system has been deployed in central Israel, the IDF said on Monday night amid increased tensions between the Jewish state and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza since the army destroyed an attack tunnel built by the terror group last month.
The terror group has vowed to retaliate for the 12 of its members killed in the tunnel blast, calling Israel’s threats against its leaders a “declaration of war.”
Earlier on Monday, the IDF said that West Bank-based PIJ leader Tariq Qa’adan had been arrested, prompting outrage from the group, which said it was “part of the occupation’s latest escalation against Islamic Jihad and our people,” according to Palestine Today, a news site affiliated with the group.
On Saturday, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai publicly warned Islamic Jihad that it was “playing with fire” by threatening Israel.
“We are aware of the plot being waged by Palestinian Islamic Jihad against Israel. They are playing with fire with the residents of the Gaza Strip and at the expense of Palestinian reconciliation and the entire region,” he said in Arabic, adding that the terror group’s leader Ramadan Shalah and his deputy Ziad Nakhaleh would be “held accountable” for the consequences of their actions.
“Threats to target the movement’s leadership is a declaration of war, which we will confront,” Palestine Today reported the group as saying on Sunday in response to Mordechai’s warning.
Last week, Netanyahu announced that Israel would hold on to the bodies of five terrorists killed in the tunnel blast, a move that Israeli lawmakers said would help in a potential exchange for the bodies of slain IDF soldiers held in Gaza.
PIJ responded to the IDF’s announcement that it was keeping the bodies of five terrorists found in the tunnel by saying that Israel “will not be able to bargain over our fighters.”
“Our battle is open and shall not end. The freedom tunnel is not the only tunnel owned by the Islamic Jihad. It has many tunnels and many options,” senior PIJ member Ahmad al-Mudalal warned.