Israel deals painful blow to Islamic Jihad in arrest of al-Saadi

Analysis: IDF decision to take special precautions along Gaza border justified after Islamist faction humiliated and likely to seek revenge; senior operative known to fund terror attacks and unit Palestinian militant groups in Jenin refugee camp

Ron Ben Yishai|
The Islamic Jihad terror group took a major hit overnight when its West Bank commander Bassam al-Saadi was arrested by IDF troops, in the Jenin refugee camp.
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  • The news of his arrest overshadowed earlier reports, that some 50 of the group's operatives have been detained in raids all over the West Bank and were undergoing questioning by the Shin bet Security Agency.
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    באסם א-סעדי ג'יהאד אסלאמי
    באסם א-סעדי ג'יהאד אסלאמי
    Bassam al-Saadi
    (Photo: AFP)
    Al-Saadi was apprehended along with his son-in-law and close aid inside the camp, which has become a stronghold of terror beyond the reach of the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.
    He was responsible for an agreement reached with the Hamas organization and other smaller factions to join forces inside the camp.
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    הפרות סדר בעקבות פעילות צה"ל בג'נין
    הפרות סדר בעקבות פעילות צה"ל בג'נין
    Palestinians clash with IDF troops in the Jenin refugee camp
    (Photo: AFP)
    The senior Islamic Jihad operative was able to acquire funds and weapons, often with the help of Iran – a close ally of the group, which has also provided training for operatives. Those assets were instrumental in enlisting militants to carry out deadly attacks against Israelis.
    He offered $300 for a successful attack, killing Israelis and $100 for an unsuccessful attempt.
    The 61-year old had previously spent years in Israeli jails and was a major force inside the Jenin camp. His arrest therefore is seen as the most severe blow to the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon, prompting the IDF to take necessary precautions to prepare for violence from Gaza.
    Al-Saadi and some of the less prominent detainees will likely break in their interrogations and provide security forces with valuable intelligence that will lead to more arrests.
    This could further impact the Islamic Jihad's ability to launch attacks from the West Bank and explains the group's Gaza leadership's strong statements and threats of attack on Israel.
    But between the lines, the Islamist group's fear can be detected. Its leaders understand the arrest of al-Saadi is just the beginning of a dangerous phase for the organization in the war waged against it by the Israeli security authorities.
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    כוחות צה"ל בפעילות בג'נין
    כוחות צה"ל בפעילות בג'נין
    IDF troops during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    A fatal blow to the Islamic Jihad's ability to launch terror attacks and demonstrate its strength in the West Bank, as well as the humiliation it suffered in Gaza and more so in Lebanon, where its leader Ziad Nahala is based, could lead to acts of revenge stemming from its stronghold in Gaza, in order to restore the group's respectability.
    Unlike the Gaza ruling Hamas terror group, the Islamic Jihad has less to inhibit its launching attacks from the Strip.
    While Hamas is responsible for the welfare of Gazan's the smaller Islamist faction is only committed to the "resistance," or to the holy war against Israel and can only be restrained by Hamas.
    The Islamic Jihad had often targeted Israeli troops and civilians traveling near the Gaza border with anti-tank fire.
    Israel's military suspended train travel in the south because an attack on the Ashkelon-Sderot train could be deadly.
    If the Gaza faction fails to identify a possible target in Israel in the coming days, their anger and humiliation over the arrest of their senior operative may subside and the urging of Hamas to hold their fire in the hopes of preventing a new cycle of violence, might fall on more receptive ears.

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