Terrorism charges filed against Islamic Jihad leader whose arrest sparked Gaza conflict

Military prosecutors on Thursday filed an indictment against a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative whose arrest earlier this month sparked a series of fighting between Israel and the terror group in the Gaza Strip.

Bassem Saadi’s indictment included charges of membership in a terrorist group (the PIJ), conducting operations on behalf of the terrorist group, inciting terrorism, assisting in contacting an enemy and ‘identity theft.

A military court further extended Saadi’s pretrial detention on Thursday, ordering his detention until Sunday, when a hearing will be held to keep him in custody until the end of the legal proceedings. There was no immediate date set for his trial.

Saadi, the leader of the terror group in the West Bank, was arrested on August 1 by Israeli troops in the Palestinian city of Jenin. His arrest followed intelligence reports indicating that Saadi had continued to be active in the PIJ, a military source said.

According to the indictment, Saadi worked to help two other Palestinians “advance the activities” of the PIJ student council, which is considered by Israel to be part of the banned group. The couple received $5,000 from a terrorist in the Gaza Strip for these activities, according to the indictment.

The accusation of incitement was given during a May interview in which Saadi said that if Israeli troops entered the Jenin refugee camp “and went door to door, God forbid, then the resistance would rise like ‘phoenixes’ of fire or coals… the refugee from Jenin The camp is part of the Palestinian people who stay to fight until they are driven from our land, our sea , of our heaven and of our holy places.

A gunman affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group walks as men carry the body of Dirar al-Kafrayni, killed in clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin, to his funeral at the refugee camp in Jenin, August 2, 2022. (Jaafar Ashitiyeh/AFP)

When arrested on August 1, Saadi identified himself to troops as his brother Ghassan, and was therefore also charged with impersonating a false identity, according to the indictment.

In response to Saadi’s arrest, the PIJ announced that it was declaring a state of alert. The Israel Defense Forces, claiming to have concrete indications of an imminent attack on the Gaza border, put the area under lockdown for four days, fearing that the PIJ might try to fire anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets along the border. the border.

Eventually, the IDF launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza against a senior PIJ commander and several anti-tank guided missile squads in an operation called Breaking Dawn, which prompted rocket fire from the Strip.

After nearly three days of fighting, a ceasefire agreement was signed which would have included “Egypt’s commitment to work for the release” of Saadi and another Palestinian detainee, Khalil Awawdeh. said a spokesperson for the terror group.

Israel has no plans to release the prisoners sooner, officials said after the ceasefire. Awawdeh’s administrative detention was temporarily suspended, but Israel’s highest court denied him full release.

Demonstrators gather with a Palestinian flag outside Be’er Yaakov Hospital where a hunger-striking security prisoner, Khalil Awawdeh, pictured in the placards, held by Israel as a suspected terrorist, is in a medical condition that deteriorates, August 13, 2022. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

The PIJ, meanwhile, threatened to resume fighting if Israel did not release Saadi and Awawdeh.

There was no immediate statement from the terror group in response to the indictment.

Saadi, 61, has been imprisoned and released seven times by Israel over the years, according to the Shin Bet.

The security service said that in recent months Saadi “has worked even harder to restore the activities of the PIJ, in which he was behind the creation of a large military force of the organization in Samaria in general. and Jenin in particular,” referring to the northern West Bank. .

“His presence was an important factor in radicalizing ISIS operatives in the field,” the Shin Bet added.

Tensions have remained high in the West Bank as Israeli security forces stepped up raids and arrest operations following a deadly wave of terror attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people earlier this year.

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