Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border in preparation for retaliatory attacks after arresting Islamic Jihad leaders in the occupied West Bank on Monday. A teenage member of the group has been killed in a gun battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.
In the 15 years since the militant group seized power along the coast from the rival Palestinian army, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes. The most recent war took place in May 2021, and tensions have soared again after a wave of attacks inside Israel, near-daily military operations in the West Bank and a flashpoint in the holy sites of Jerusalem.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza earlier on Friday, saying authorities were preparing “operations to neutralize threats in the area,” without elaborating.
“We will act with internal resilience and external strength to restore daily life in southern Israel,” he said. “We do not seek conflict, but we will not hesitate to protect our citizens if needed.”
Gaza Islamic Jihad official Ahmed Mudalal said the group, through an Egyptian mediator, had made demands to Israel, including the release of the detained militant and another prisoner, a halt to attacks on the West Bank and relief from Gaza the blockade. He said they have yet to hear back.
Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas but largely shares its ideology. Both groups oppose the Israeli presence and have carried out dozens of deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets into southern Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, which Israel believes is responsible for all attacks from Gaza.