By Yaakov Lappin

The Israeli Air Force surprised Palestinian Islamic Jihad early on Tuesday with a series of strikes and targeted assassinations in the Gaza Strip. The move represents an effort by Israel to reestablish deterrence after PIJ fired 104 rockets and terrorized southern Israeli residents on May 2 and 3 in response to the death of 45-year-old PIJ Israeli security prisoner Khader Adnan, who had been on a three-month hunger strike. 

View of a damaged building  following Israeli airstrikes on an apartment of an Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza City on May 9, 2023. Israeli air strikes killed 13 people before dawn on May 9, 2023, in the Gaza Strip, according to the health ministry of the Hamas-controlled territory. (AHMED ZAKOT/GETTY IMAGES)

Maj. Nir Dinar, head of the IDF’s International Press Department, told Zenger News that “Operation Shield and Arrow” sends the message that Israel will not tolerate a situation in which PIJ feels it can launch mass attacks on its civilians at will. 

Children stand near a damaged building following Israeli airstrikes on an apartment of an Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza City on May 9, 2023. The Israeli military announced it had carried out strikes against Palestinian “Islamic Jihad targets” in the area.  (AHMED ZAKOT/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel is also seeking to differentiate between Hamas and PIJ—just as did in its 2022 “Operation Breaking Dawn” and in the 2019 “Operation Black Belt.” During those operations, Hamas left PIJ, which had decided to escalate attacks on Israeli targets, to face the consequences on its own. A key question going forward is whether Hamas will act in the same manner now. 

Dinar noted that the Iranian-funded PIJ is a proxy of Tehran, and said that all of the PIJ operatives targeted in “Operation Shield and Arrow” had recently engaged in terrorist activity. They had also been planning attacks on Israelis in the near future, including in Judea and Samaria, he said. 

He described PIJ’s presence in Judea and Samaria as “significant,” noting that it has attempted to launch many terror attacks, some of which have been successful. The IDF is investigating reports of civilian deaths due to “Operation Shield and Arrow,” including of family members of the targeted terrorists, said Dinar, adding that the military regrets the deaths of any noncombatants. 

The operation had dealt a “severe” blow to the Gaza-based terror group, said Dinar. “The IDF will choose when and how to retaliate, we won’t be subject to PIJ’s formulas,” Dinar said. The Israeli military has declared a special situation in the home front, and called on all civilians to be attentive to instructions from the Home Front Command.

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

Edited by Rachmad Imam Tarecha and Virginia Van Zandt

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