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Israel Ramps Up Campaign Against Iran-Backed Militants Despite Gaza Ceasefire

  • Israel killed three more militants after clashes with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad ended in a ceasefire, making good its promise to preemptively target threats.
  • The killings fit into a broader Israeli campaign to combat Iran’s reach in the region via proxy groups, like the PIJ.
  • “Iran might have thought to itself, ‘If I fire some rockets into Israel, the Israelis will know that regardless of what happens on the nuclear front, we can attack them,’ Shoshana Bryen told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Israelis said, ‘You can try.’”

Israel targeted three more militants in the West Bank just after clashing with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza, an example of Israel’s escalating campaign against Iran’s proxy forces in Palestine.

The shootout Tuesday involved PIJ forces, according to CNN—the latest in Israel’s crackdown against Palestinian groups, including Iran-sponsored Hamas and PIJ, that continue to perpetrate terror attacks, ABC News reported. After three days of rocket fire between Israel and the PIJ ended in an Egypt-brokered ceasefire Sunday night, The Associated Press reported, Israel’s efforts to neutralize the Iranian threat in Palestine continue to intensify.

Interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the killing of Ibrahim al-Nablusi, a leader of the ruling Fatah party’s Al-Aqsa Brigade armed division, “another step in our uncompromising struggle against terrorism” Tuesday, ABC News reported.

“In the future, if necessary, we will conduct preemptive strikes in order to protect the citizens of Israel, its sovereignty and infrastructure. This is true on each of the fronts, from Tehran [Iran] to Khan Yunis [Gaza],” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement Monday.

Israel launched what it claimed to be a preemptive strike against the PIJ on Friday, thwarting a rocket attack and killing a high-ranking PIJ commander. Red alerts went off through the weekend to warn Israelis of over 1,000 PIJ missiles launched into Israeli territory with guidance from Iran, according to MEMRI.

IDF rocket fire killed a second commander Saturday, the AP reported. Hamas, a larger Iranian proxy in Gaza that positions itself as an ideological rival to the PIJ, refrained from getting involved in the fighting but later blamed the Palestinian Authority for helping Israel and promised future violence, ABC News reported.

The clashes exemplified the “viability” and “necessity of preemptive military initiatives against rogue entities when a series of diplomatic options fail to advance the cause of peaceful coexistence while bolstering the capabilities of… rogue entities [i.e., Iran],” former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Yoram Ettinger told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad Nakhalah suggested an imminent terror attack on Israel at a meeting with Iranian officials before the Israeli strike, possibly in response to an uptick in covert Israeli operations on Iranian soil, MEMRI reported. Nakaleh thanked Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi for supporting the PIJ in its campaign to cripple the “Zionist regime,” saying that “Iran’s presence in the region is… bolder and more powerful than ever.”

“The PIJ, as a proxy for Iran, is only representing [Iran’s] interest,” Itay Milner, a spokesperson for Consul General Ambassador Asaf Zamir in New York, told the DCNF.

The PIJ serves as “another lethal vector of pressure” Iran can apply against Israel, Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the DCNF, noting that its weapons and those of Hamas, the larger of the two main terrorist groups in Gaza, have become more sophisticated as a result of Iranian support.

While the Iran may not be pleased with the outcome of the fighting, it does not change Iran’s hesitance to sign a last-ditch revision of the 2015 nuclear agreement exchanging sanctions relief for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, or the Soshana Bryen, director of the Jewish Policy Center, told the DCNF.

“Iran might have thought to itself, ‘If I fire some rockets into Israel, the Israelis will know that regardless of what happens on the nuclear front, we can attack them,’ said Bryen. “The Israelis said, ‘You can try.’”

European negotiators in Vienna presented Iran with a final offer Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported. However, even the pared-down agreement on the table would unlock billions of dollars in assets for the Iranian regime, allowing it to ramp up financial support for its proxy forces in the Middle East, including the PIJ, and cause further destabilization.

The “cycle of violence, escalation and retaliation” in Israel sends a message of resolve to the West, said Ben Taleblu. “This is why the proxy strategy is the gift that keeps on giving for Tehran.”

The Iranian foreign ministry, Israeli defense ministry and the IDF did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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