Palestinian Islamic Jihad Is Trying to Stir Up Trouble in Gaza. Can Israel Stop It?

November 8, 2019 | Yaakov Lappin
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Last weekend, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli town of Sderot; the Iron Dome system intercepted most of them, but one damaged a house. The IDF responded with airstrikes, mostly on Hamas targets. While both PIJ and Hamas receive support from Iran, PIJ is more closely tied to Tehran. Yaakov Lappin investigates its motivation:

PIJ has both an interest in destabilizing the security situation with rocket fire and the ability to do so. [At the moment], Hamas is holding out for the results of negotiations with Egypt and the UN aimed at preventing an economic collapse in Gaza. PIJ, in contrast, has no such concerns. It is more than willing to use its rocket arsenal, which is larger than that of Hamas, to upset the security situation.

Iranian funding and rocket production knowhow has helped make PIJ a significant terror army, with some 15,000 armed operatives (compared to Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing). . . . Since May 2019, PIJ has significantly stepped up attempts to launch attacks against Israel out of Gaza. Most of those attempts have been thwarted, but many more attack plots remain, and the organization’s intent is crystal-clear.

The Israeli defense establishment is focusing its readiness on the northern front, where Iran and Hizballah are seeking to build new attack capabilities. These include upgrading Hizballah’s rocket arsenal into precision-guided missiles in Lebanon and entrenching Iran’s attack bases throughout Syria. Israel is actively working to disrupt both of these Iranian objectives. To help it achieve this mission, Israel is prioritizing the north over Gaza. That formula has held up until now, but if PIJ remains determined to rock the boat, it could collapse into yet another Gaza war.

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