‘Don’t you dare’

‘Don’t you dare’ Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor, November 13, 2017

Now the message to Gaza is “no more.” Israel will not be a passive player, rather an active one that if attacked – will attack back. If Islamic Jihad considered a limited retaliation, one that would not lead to an escalation of hostilities, Israel is saying that its reaction will be severe regardless. It will not only target Islamic Jihad but the ruling faction in Gaza: Hamas.

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The unusual announcement from Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories unit, Saturday night was not out of the blue. In Israel, defense officials believe Palestinian Islamic Jihad is preparing a revenge attack for the demolition of its underground tunnel and deaths of its people.

This assessment was enough for Mordechai to leave his home Saturday evening, put on his uniform, and drive to IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to record an announcement in Arabic, the gist of which can be summarized in three simple words: Don’t you dare.

During the 69 seconds in which he spoke, Mordechai sought to transfer the dilemma to the other side. Ever since the tunnel was destroyed, some two weeks ago, Israel has been on high alert; its military activity along the security fence has been minimal, agricultural work in the vicinity has been greatly restricted, and the message received by the Gaza was that Israel was waiting for a retaliation.

Now the message to Gaza is “no more.” Israel will not be a passive player, rather an active one that if attacked – will attack back. If Islamic Jihad considered a limited retaliation, one that would not lead to an escalation of hostilities, Israel is saying that its reaction will be severe regardless. It will not only target Islamic Jihad but the ruling faction in Gaza: Hamas.

This purpose of this message was to pass the dilemma back to Gaza. It was meant for Hamas, which is taking great pains to restrain Islamic Jihad and has thus far managed to stop it from retaliating; and for Islamic Jihad itself – which was warned that a terrorist attack would bring disaster to the Gaza Strip and sabotage Palestinian reconciliation efforts (which Israel opposes but is presently seeking to utilize). As expected, Islamic Jihad responded with an aggressive message of its own, reiterating its intention to retaliate.

With that, it appears the group’s leadership in Gaza has yet to make that decision and is waiting for the green light from its military headquarters in Damascus, namely from Ramadan Salah and his second-in-command Ziad Nahala. This is also why Mordechai included in his statement a particularly undiplomatic message for the two, warning “there will be those who will be held responsible” for the consequences of a future attack.

In the meantime, there are no signs that Islamic Jihad is folding. If the prevailing assumption of a revenge attack materializes – which will lead to an assured Israeli response – we could find ourselves in a downward spiral that neither side wants.

Explore posts in the same categories: Hamas, Hamas - Palestinian Authority reconciliation, IDF, Islamic Jihad, Israeli security

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