Israel extends detention of PIJ leader that sparked recent Gaza conflict

An Israeli military court has delayed the release of Bassem Saadi


SHeikh Bassam Al-Saadi, head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, brought to a court hearing at Ofer prison, outside of Jerusalem, on August 16, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ??? ???? ???? ? ???? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ????

An Israeli military court has extended the detention of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader.

On Tuesday the Ofer military base court instructed that Bassem Saadi, whose arrest on August 1 sparked clashes between Israel and the PIJ’s Gaza wing, be held on remand for six more days until 21 August. 

This is the third time his detention has been extended since he was apprehended by Israeli troops in Jenin earlier this month.

The arrest of Saadi, who headed up the PIJ’s West Bank operations, prompted the terror group to escalate hostilities with Israel. 

This was followed by a four-day lockdown of Israeli population centres close to the Gaza border as well as shutting the Erez Crossing, following IDF claims that an attack using anti-tank missiles was imminent.

Later that week, senior PIJ commander and a number of anti-tank guided missile squads were attacked by the IDF, prompting rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

A ceasefire agreement was signed after almost three days of fighting. A terror group spokesperson told the Times of Israel that the deal outlined “Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of” Saadi and a further Palestinian detainee, Khalil Awawdeh.

Israeli authorities claim that Awawdeh, who was handed a six-month administrative detention order following his arrest in December 2021, is a militant. However Awawdeh’s family has denied this, and the detainee has garnered publicity via an extended hunger strike.

Meanwhile, Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz appears to have rubbished claims the pair could soon walk free, stating last week that he was “not familiar with a promise to release terrorists.”

PIJ has warned it will resume fighting if the releases do not take place.

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland has announced that his office has dispatched a team to visit Saadi as part of its ceasefire commitments.

“I reiterate that the ceasefire in Gaza is very fragile and I call on all sides to preserve the calm,” Wennesland wrote via Twitter on 7 August.

Shin Bet told the Jerusalem Post that Saadi has “worked even harder to restore PIJ activities, in which he was behind the creation of a significant military force of the organisation in Samaria in general and in Jenin in particular,” throughout recent months.

Israel’s security service went on: “His presence was a significant factor in the radicalisation of the organisation’s operatives in the field.”

Tensions in the West Bank have already heightened over recent months. This follows an uptick in arrest raids and operations by Shin Bet after a spate of terror attacks against Israelis were caused 19 fatalities earlier this year.

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