Photo Credit: Majdi Fathi/TPS
Islamic Jihad terrorists in Khan Younis. April 8, 2022

United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland dispatched on Wednesday a team of UN officials to visit Sheikh Bassam al-Sa’adi, the leader of the Islamic Jihad terror organization in the Samaria region, held in the Israeli Ofer Prison, to “follow-up on UN commitments to maintain calm in Gaza.”

Al-Sa’adi was arrested last week by Israeli Special Forces in a counterterrorism operation in Jenin, an incident that sparked tensions in the Gaza Strip and subsequently led to the IDF’s Operation Breaking Dawn against the Islamic Jihad in the Strip over the weekend.

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Sa’adi holds very important information about all the terrorist activities of the Islamic Jihad in the Samaria area and is believed to be behind the terror organizations’ unification and intensification in recent months.

The Islamic Jihad leadership demanded the release of several prisoners held by Israel, including al-Sa’adi, as a condition for the ceasefire. Israel has rejected the demands. It is unclear which “UN commitments” Wennesland was relating to.

Wennesland “reiterated that the ceasefire in Gaza is very fragile and I call on all sides to preserve the calm.”

In the meantime, a deterioration was reported Thursday morning in the condition of Khalil Al-Awawada, an Islamic Jihad administrative detainee held by Israel who has been on a hunger strike and whom the terror organization demanded be released as part of the ceasefire announced Sunday night. His death could reignite the Islamic Jihad’s attacks on Israel from Gaza.

Egyptian sources reported that a delegation of senior officials from the Egyptian intelligence will arrive in Israel next week to discuss the release of Awawada and al-Sa’adi in an attempt to prevent the renewal of fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Wennesland angered Israeli diplomats last week when he expressed “deep concern” over Israel’s strikes in the Gaza Strip against the Islamic Jihad, including the elimination of Taysir al-Jabari, commander of the Islamic Jihad’s northern division who was responsible for multiple terror attacks against Israelis.

Wennesland stated that he was “deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation between Palestinian militants and Israel, including the targeted killing of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader inside Gaza.”

In response, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan stated that “while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is launching missiles at Israeli civilians, the UN envoy expresses ‘deep concern’ for the neutralization of a senior terrorist behind an imminent attack on Israelis.”

“Will he also express deep concern over the neutralization of [Ayman] al-Zawahiri?” the commander of Al-Qaeda who was eliminated by the US a week ago, Erdan asked.

“Israel expects the international community and the United Nations to stop making false and immoral comparisons between a law-abiding democracy and radical terror organizations and to support Israel’s right to defend its citizens,” he demanded.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.