Israelis living in Jewish communities near the border with Gaza have been ordered to remain within their communities — and in some cases, in their homes — as the IDF prepares for a possible “revenge” attack by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.
Bassam al-Saadi, head of the PIJ in Jenin, was arrested by Israeli special forces and Shin Bet agents in the wee hours of Tuesday in Jenin together with his son-in-law, who functions as his aide.
Residents in the area spent a tense but quiet night Tuesday night, many of them in bomb shelters in order to avoid having to awaken their sleeping children to make a run for it in the event of a late-night Gaza rocket attack. Most planned to do the same Wednesday night as well, since the strong possibility of an attack remained.
Orly Amsalem, head of the emergency response team in the community of Yavul, told Israel’s Channel N12 News, “This uncertainty is killing us all. The community has had no answers for the residents since this morning and we really don’t know what is going on. I know [IDF soldiers] don’t just close our roads — there’s always something (when they do) — but it puts even more stress on people when they don’t know anything.”
Following threats from the PIJ, Israel sent a strong message to Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization and to its ally, the PIJ, warning that although Jerusalem has no interest in an escalation, there will be a “severe response” to any attack or violation of Israel’s sovereignty (ie: infiltration).
Nevertheless, military officials and those in the Eshkol Regional Council district decided to close the entrances and exits from the “Chevel Shalom” and “Chalutziot” communities. Public transportation has likewise been minimized, according to N12.
Highway 232 was blocked in both directions from the Nir intersection to the Saad intersection. Highway 34 was blocked in both directions from the Yad Mordechai intersection to the Nir Am intersection. Route 4 to the south was blocked from the Zikim intersection to the Yad Mordechai intersection.
Bus line 11 to Kerem Shalom and line 15 to the “Parsa” communities were both shut down; other internal bus lines in Eshkol continued to operate. “Dan b’Darom” bus lines 10 and 12 and “Galim” bus line 495 have all been suspended until further notice.
Israel Railways train service remained suspended between Ashkelon and Sderot.
Academic studies are taking place online and educational activities are taking place in or very close to safe spaces in the communities. All field trips were cancelled.
The decisions create significant disruption for residents in the area, with parents forced to stay home from work to care for children whose programs were closed.
In accordance with decisions reached at a situation assessment held Tuesday, the IDF also issued a limited call-up of some 100 reservists and a one-off recruitment of special forces to help secure the area.
Normally speaking, there are about three companies stationed in the area; the idea now is to reinforce the local security units in communities along the border security fence.
The move is intended to give residents a sense of security while deploying a beefed-up force that knows how to respond in the event of an attack.