GAZA CITY: In a move that may create a new armed confrontation between the Palestinian factions and Israel, the Islamic Jihad movement has threatened to go to war in support of its prisoners in Israeli jails, while its military wing Al-Quds Brigades has announced a general mobilization.
Ziad Al-Nakhala, secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, said the movement would support the prisoners with everything it has, “even if it requires us to go to war for them, and no agreements or other considerations will prevent us from that.”
The Al-Quds Brigades responded to Al-Nakhala’s threats, with the announcement of a “general mobilization” and confirmation that it was “fully ready.”
In light of these developments, a meeting — whose venue was not specified — brought together a leading delegation headed by Al-Nakhala, and the other from Hamas, headed by Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of its political bureau.
The two sides stressed that Israel’s abuse of Palestinian prisoners inside its prisons “leads the region toward a wide explosion,” according to a statement issued by Hamas.
The statement said the two movements warned “the enemy government against testing the patience and resistance of our people,” stressing that “harming the prisoners is an insult to all our people, and the occupation must bear the consequences of this foolish policy that may lead the region toward a wide explosion.”
Qaddoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said on Wednesday that 250 of Islamic Jihad’s detainees in Israeli prisons have started an open hunger strike to protest the “atrocious measures” against them, noting that “after seven days, 100 of them will also stop taking water.”
Of the approximately 5,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons, about 400 are affiliated with Islamic Jihad.
According to the Prisoner's Club, the striking prisoners are calling for “the prison administration to stop the abusive measures that it had imposed doubly against them after Sept. 6, the date of the Freedom Tunnel operation,” a reference to the escape of six prisoners — five of them from Islamic Jihad — through a tunnel from Israel’s Gilboa Prison. They were captured within two weeks.
Hasan Lafi, an analyst and political writer affiliated with Islamic Jihad, said Al-Nakhala’s statements and the quick response of the military wing, “are not an option or a threat, but rather a decision to go to war in the event that the lives of our prisoners in the occupation’s prisons are affected.
“Al-Nakhla possesses a balance of action and the ability to carry out promises, and he has already done so when he issued a threat in the matter of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and followed it with the launch of a missile.”
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted Islamic Jihad sources as saying that it conveyed a message to Israel via Egypt that it is “going toward escalating steps, including firing rockets and igniting the border with the Gaza Strip, if the enemy does not reverse its measures against its prisoners.”
Complexities in the Palestinian arena are increasing. Hamas’ dialogue with Egyptian officials in Cairo over the course of six days on enhancing the Hamas-Israel truce and the prisoner-exchange deal did not result in a “real breakthrough.” The movement, however, received Egyptian promises to speed up the reconstruction process, without setting timetables.
Palestinian and Egyptian sources close to these meetings affirmed that they reject what they describe as “Israeli prevarication and betting on the time factor,” and categorically refuse to conclude agreements related to the truce and the exchange deal that does not meet its conditions.
Hamas demands the release of 48 prisoners, who were re-arrested by Israel following their release under the Gilad Shalit (Israeli soldier) prisoner-exchange deal, and also the release of the six who fled the Gilboa prison through a tunnel.
Also on the demand list is the release of Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Fouad Al-Shobaki, and a number of its military leaders serving life sentences.
Hamas is betting on its demands with four Israelis detained in Gaza, including two soldiers it captured during the third war on Gaza in 2014. It refuses to reveal their fate. The other two are an Arab and an Ethiopian who entered Gaza under mysterious circumstances.
But Cairo, according to the sources, told Hamas that it does not expect the Israeli government to respond to its conditions due to “what it suffers internally and its fear of collapse.”
However, Egyptian officials promised to continue their efforts to reach an exchange deal, which Cairo sees as a basis for cementing the truce and preventing any deterioration that leads to military confrontation.
Zaher Jabarin, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that Israel offers lies and misinformation regarding the developments of the exchange deal. “We will not give up on our demands,” he said.