Israel on high alert following overnight arrest of Bassem Saadi, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s highest ranking figure in Judea and Samaria.
By Pesach Benson, United with Israel
Israeli authorities closed highways and train service near the Gaza border on Tuesday morning after IDF forces arrested a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in Jenin overnight.
The measures were taken after an IDF situational assessment noted an increase in activity by PIJ personnel in Gaza that posed what the military called “a direct threat of a possible attack on Israeli civilians.”
Bassem Saadi, 62, has been described as the PIJ’s most senior figure in all of Judea and Samaria. He was arrested along with his son-in-law, Ashraf al-Jada, who is also a PIJ operative. Saadi has previously spent time in Israeli prison.
Clashes broke out during the Monday night raid. One Palestinian teen was killed. No IDF soldiers were hurt.
The Shin Bet said that Saadi “was behind the creation of a significant military force of the organization in Samaria in general and in Jenin in particular.” The security agency stressed that “his presence was a significant factor in the radicalization of the organization’s operatives in the field.”
The Shin Bet also said several weapons were seized, including a handgun, along with ammunition and cash.
The IDF’s ongoing Operation Break the Wave has targeted Palestinian terror groups in Jenin. During a seven-week period earlier this year, 19 Israelis were killed in a wave of attacks, most of which came from the Jenin area.
In response, the PIJ announced it had raised its level of readiness in Gaza while Hamas warned the arrest would provoke an escalation. Egyptian intelligence officials are holding talks with the Gaza terror groups in hopes of averting an escalation, Haaretz reported.
Israel’s high alert stems not only from concern for Gaza rocket fire but sniper attacks on civilians as well. The terror group is known to possess anti-tank guided missiles.
Police closed off Route 4 from the Zikim Junction to the Erez Crossing, Route 232 from the Nir Am Junction to the Kerem Shalom Crossing, and Route 34 from the Yad Mordechai Junction to the Nir Am Junction.
Train service between Ashkelon and Sderot was cancelled, and police blocked public access to sites overlooking Gaza as well as the Zikim Beach. Also closed off were access roads used by farmers.
In addition, the Erez Border crossing where Palestinian workers cross into Israel was closed, classes at the Sapir College in Sderot were held online, and the IDF bolstered its deployment of Iron Dome batteries.
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