IDF launched Gaza raid to stop terror attack ordered by 'leadership abroad'

Operation Breaking Dawn was launched to prevent an impending terror attack in Israel after noting increased militant activity


GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 06: Flames and smoke rise from a residential building following an Israeli airstrike on August 06, 2022 in Gaza City, Gaza. More than ten people have been killed overnight by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip after the Israeli Prime Minister retaliated to an "immediate threat" by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The airstrikes killed a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad as well as a 5-year old girl and injured more than 75 people according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. (Photo by Mohammed Dahman/Getty Images)

The IDF operation against Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was launched after Israel learned the militant group’s “leadership abroad” had ordered it to carry out a massive terror attack, a senior Israeli official has told the JC.

The leading commanders of PIJ —which is fully funded and backed by Iran — were killed in Operation Breaking Dawn. It took place over the weekend after Israeli intelligence learned about the impending attack against Israel and observed an increased militant activity in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Israel Defence Force (IDF), 24 PIJ terrorists, including most of the group’s senior leadership, were killed or arrested in the operation, which is said to have significantly reduced the capabilities of the terror group.

Speaking after the operation concluded, an Israeli official said: “Iran does not have a problem with any proxies fighting until the bitter end… I would be very surprised if Iran tried to stop this. They encourage [their proxies] to harm Israel.” The terror group was forced to ask for a ceasefire, the official added, because “throughout three days it was evident that Palestinian Islamic Jihad can’t harm Israel, but Israel can harm Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad realised it would only get worse for them… From the IDF’s perspective, their goals had been met so it was a good time to end.”

The deal agreed on Sunday night brought to an end three days of fighting that left more than 40 people dead, including 15 children in Gaza. At least 12 of those children were killed by failed PIJ rockets that exploded within the Gaza strip, according to the IDF.

Footage presented by Israeli forces shows a barrage of rockets being launched into the air, with one falling short and crashing. IDF officials said it shows a failed PIJ launch that caused the deaths of seven people in Jabaliya, a town north of Gaza City.

IDF officials also claim a failed launch resulted in the deaths of another five children - aged 4, 13, 14, 16, and 17 - in an explosion at the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Tensions began in March when a campaign of terror was launched by Palestinian militants.

Almost twenty people were killed in attacks from Beersheba to Tel Aviv, leading Israeli officials to ramp up a campaign of raids against Jenin - a centre of PIJ recruitment and activity.

On 1 August, security forces arrested the PIJ’s leader, Bassem Saadi, in the West Bank city.

Four days later, Israel’s military launched Operation Breaking Dawn with a successful strike on PIJ senior commander Tayseer Jabari in Gaza, claiming the move was vital to stop an incoming terror attack.

An Israeli official said the group had “concrete plans” to carry out an attack on Israeli citizens close to the border.

Around three weeks ago, the Israeli security apparatus noticed increased militant activity and weapons movement in the Gaza Strip - an indication that the terror group was preparing an attack.

Dr Kobi Michael, former head of the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said PIJ were prepared to act because they felt they could now “change the equation” in their struggle against the Jewish state.

PIJ secretary-general Ziyad Nakhalah was under pressure from Iran – which backs and funds the militia – to deliver a major attack on Israel’s borders in order to distract from nuclear talks with world powers in Vienna, The Times reported.

“Iran really likes the idea that Israel will be occupied at all the time on all fronts,” Dr Michael added.

Nakhalah travelled to Tehran for meetings with senior Iranian officials, and after the news emerged, Israel began preparations for an imminent attack.

A senior Israeli official told the JC that the PIJ, “received instructions from their leadership abroad to carry out the attack.”

Israeli intelligence officials had been listening to communications between Nakhalah and two of the group’s senior military commanders, The Times reported, and noted that the commanders were demanding that a large sum of money be transferred from Tehran in exchange for carrying out a huge attack on Israel in increasingly angry tones.

Despite Israeli efforts to avoid further escalation with the terror group, militant activity continued to increase, which led to the roads around the Gaza Strip being closed and severe restrictions being imposed on citizens in the area.

Last Friday morning, a security assessment took place involving Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, and top officials from the military and intelligence services, and the decision was made to launch Operation Breaking Dawn that day as a pre-emptive strike to “decapitate” the terror group before it was able to attack Israel.

Israeli officials consider the operation to have been highly successful: the capabilities of the PIJ were decimated, with their senior leadership either killed or arrested, and their assets and infrastructure destroyed.

Israel also carried out a number of raids in the West Bank to arrest PIJ militants, further blunting their capabilities.

Hamas, however, stayed out of the conflict, which Israeli officials attribute to a shift in policy under prime ministers Bennett and Lapid of increasing economic engagement with the Palestinians.

The Islamist militia, which governs the Gaza Strip, had much more to lose than the PIJ, which is purely a terror group, so chose to stay out of the conflict.

Iran is said to now be focused on providing funding, technological knowledge, and military training to PIJ to build up the group’s ability to fight Israel, an Israeli official said.

While the ceasefire has held, Dr Michael said the conflict was likely to resume nonetheless.

“I’m sure there will be a next round [of fighting],” he said.

“Hamas with all of its interests will now keep the calm and the truce to promote reconstruction of the Gaza strip… Hamas is first and foremost a terror org that does not accept Israel’s right to exist…

“They are willing to postpone some of their objectives or to make some concessions for a period of time but not willing to abandon their strategic goals.”

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