While the most direct danger comes from Gaza, a former intelligence chief says Israel should not lose sight of another real danger: Iran, Hezbollah and Syria
With increasing tensions in the south of the country and fears that the Islamic Jihad terrorist group will seek revenge for the destruction of a tunnel two weeks ago, the IDF understands that striking the right balance between Terrorist groups to prepare for a possible future war and keep relative calm in the region is easier said than done.
If no side seems to be preparing for a fight in the immediate future, an IDF miscalculation runs the risk of triggering a bloody conflict of blows for blows that could lead to total war.
In the past two weeks, the military has been trying to prevent such escalation as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group vowed to avenge the Israeli army's demolition of its attack tunnel that was crossing Israeli territory from Gaza.
On 30 October, the army actually blew up the tunnel, which came from the Gaza City of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory near Kibbutz Kissufim.
Last measure of the army? Deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system in central Israel - including at least one battery in the Greater Tel Aviv area - amid fears that the terrorist group may retaliate with a salvo of rockets.
In addition to preparing for the attack, the Israeli army has also tried to avoid one, repeatedly warning of the consequences of attacks by the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad and the terrorist group in power. Gaza Strip, Hamas.
A total of 12 terrorists were killed in the tunnel explosion, two of them were Hamas and the rest were from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including two high-ranking commanders. The remains of five of the Islamic Jihad terrorists who worked in the tunnel on the Israeli side were returned by the IDF a few days later.
But according to the army, this large number was not intentional. The purpose of the operation, for the IDF, was the destruction of the tunnel, not the killing of the 12 terrorists. In comments after the explosion, IDF officials also noted that many of the terrorists did not die in the explosion, but in failed attempts to rescue them.
But the military stressed that it did not regret the terrorists 'death after being criticized by politicians who interpreted the officers' comments as a kind of excuse.
With this large number of dead, the army considers that the group "will have a hard time holding back".
Coincidentally, Tuesday also marks the five-year anniversary of the elimination of Hamas military wing commander Ahmed Jabari, who was killed by an IDF airstrike, resulting in a week-long military campaign in Gaza. the Pillier Defense Operation. Terrorist groups are known to have carried out attacks to mark important anniversaries.
On Monday, Amos Yadlin, the former head of military intelligence, praised the army's readiness to prepare for the threats from Gaza, but warned that "the northern front is the Israel's main concern - Assad, Hezbollah and Iran seek to challenge the IDF. "
Israel recently shot down a drone from Syria with a Patriot missile in the third such incident this year, which, according to military officials, is an indication of the growing audacity of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad after his wartime successes. of the country.
Senior military officials and Israeli government officials are currently engaged in intense discussions with US and Russian counterparts on a ceasefire agreement in southern Syria, particularly on the issue of distance. Israeli borders to which Iran-backed militias will have the right to operate.
While the Iranian settlement along the Golan borders represents a much greater strategic threat to Israel's security in the long run, the most direct concerns seem to be related to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which could attack at any time.
IDF says to Islamic Jihad: go ahead
When the IDF discovered two Hamas attack tunnels that crossed into Israeli territory last year, there were also fears of a potential retaliatory response, but these fears quickly dissipated. Yet in these cases, there were no dead terrorists, unlike last month's demolition.
General Yoav Mordechai, in charge of Israel's military liaison with the Palestinians, issued a video message in Arabic addressed to Islamic Jihad leaders in Damascus, declaring that the IDF was aware of the activities of the terrorist group and that they "play with fire".
"We are aware of the activities that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is doing against Israel," Mordechai said.
"Let it be clear: any attack by Islamic Jihad will lead to a strong and determined Israeli response, not only against Jihad but also against Hamas," the general warned.
The group responded a day later, saying the Israeli threats against its leaders constitute "a declaration of war," and have promised revenge.
"We reaffirm our right to respond to all forms of aggression including our right to respond to the crimes of aggression on the resistance tunnels," said Islamic Jihad.
In the eyes of the military, this strike on the tunnel was fully justified, legally and morally, as it entered Israeli territory and threatened Israeli civilians. The army therefore thinks that if it hurts, Palestinian Islamic Jihad must only count its dead and move forward.
"They violated Israeli sovereignty. They were conducting a hostile act against Israel. We were able to counter this threat, the end of the story, "Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman, said Monday in a long interview on the Israel Project podcast.
"And if they try to attack us again, they will face our determination and our power," added Conricus.
Israeli forces have also arrested a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank, in what appears to be a non-verbal deterrence message to the terrorist group.
The Shin Bet Security Service confirmed that Tariq Qaadan, a high-ranking officer in the Jordan-based Gaza-terrorist group, was arrested by the IDF in Arrabeh, southwest of Jenin, in the northern part of the city. West Bank.
A Shin bet official said Qaadan was arrested "because he is a member of a terrorist group."
According to Yadlin, who now heads the respected think tank of the Institute for National Security Studies, Mordechai's published messages and the army spokesman's office are important tools for avoiding escalation and also for showing a significant change in the way the army has operated since the 2014 war in Gaza, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
"The messages and warnings that Israel sends to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in recent days are not a coincidence, but they suggest that there is accurate information that Islamic Jihad plans to respond to the destruction of its tunnel of terror in Israel, "wrote Yadlin on Twitter.
"It seems that Israel has learned the lessons of Operation Protective Edge, and this time it will focus on striking the heads of the organizations (and especially the leaders of their military and terrorist branches), as well as the operational infrastructure." , he said.