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Israel, Hamas hesitant over Islamic Jihad provocations

On the backdrop of attempts to reach an arrangement with Hamas and ahead of an especially sensitive month, Israel minimizes retaliation against the provocations of Islamic Jihad.

Egypt was asked on May 2 to return to its old role of policing Gaza. Representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad received an urgent summons to Cairo in an effort to restore some sense of order in the contentious Gaza Strip. Since the appointment of Ziad Nahala to Islamic Jihad's chief in September 2018 to replace Ramadan Shallah, who suffered a stroke, the group has been playing with fire by posing serious challenges to Hamas. Every time it seems as if some understanding has been reached between Hamas and Israel, and Islamic Jihad is asked to toe the line in the “Palestinian interest” or, in other words, to follow Hamas’ lead, the recalcitrant group has attempted to prove that it is completely independent. That’s what happened on April 29. Without giving Hamas any advance warning and ostensibly without any real reason, Islamic Jihad activists fired a rocket at Israel. Gaza has been seething as a result.

The long-range rocket landed in the sea, though the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that its intended target was an Israeli locality in the south. News was later released claiming the rocket was aimed at the city of Ashdod. Under normal circumstances, the IDF tends to blame all rocket fire from Gaza on Hamas, arguing that it is the ultimate authority in the Strip. In this case, however, it stated that the rocket was fired by Islamic Jihad and placed the blame specifically on Baha Abu al-Ata, commander of Islamic Jihad’s Jerusalem Brigades in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. A general announcement by the office of the IDF spokesperson claimed that for the last while, Islamic Jihad had been trying to "interfere with the process leading to an arrangement and cause the security situation to deteriorate while maintaining a low presence.” He claimed that despite efforts to prove coordination between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, no such coordination exists, because Islamic Jihad is not subject to the authority of Hamas.

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