Background to Operation Breaking Dawn

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Photo:Algemeiner

On 5  August 2022, Israel launched Operation Breaking Dawn against Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, after days of tension with the terrorist organisation.

Who is PIJ?

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group allied with Hamas and backed by Iran. Both have a background in the Muslim Brotherhood, a shared hostility to Israel, and an ideological commitment to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state. PIJ is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States.

The two groups have separate identities and some differences. Whereas Hamas leaders have made statements softening their commitment to the destruction of Israel, the smaller PIJ has made no such move and rejects any compromises with Israel.

Unlike Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad refuses to join elections and appears to have no ambition to form a government in Gaza or the West Bank.

PIJ maintains a significant presence in the West Bank town of Jenin, where Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the movement was arrested last week, setting off the crisis that led to Friday’s strikes.

Its focus on militant activity means it does not have anything like the same infrastructure or responsibilities as Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, is in charge of government and day-to-day needs of more than 2.3 million people.

Timeline leading up to current conflict

2 August

  • violent riots in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank led to the arrest of two senior PIJ commanders, Bassam al-Saadi and his son-in-law Ashraf Zidan Molmad Aljada. Al-Saadi, 61, has been arrested several times in the past, serving a total of fifteen years in Israeli prison. He is thought to have played a central role in the buildup of the PIJ’s West Bank activities, in particular in Jenin.
  • Israeli authorities raised the alert level in the south of the country, closed crossings and roads around the Gaza Strip border area amid concerns of retaliatory attacks by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, following the arrests. 
  • The IDF announced that areas and roads around the Gaza Strip security fence were blocked off “after terrorist activities were identified with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.”
  • In a statement, Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the PIJ, declared a state of alert and raised the readiness level of its fighters, in response to the “treacherous aggression against Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi and his family in Jenin.” 

4 August

  • Khaled al-Batsh, head of the politburo of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, told The Media Line that central Israel is under threat by his organization.

“We have every right to bomb Israel with our most advanced weapons, and make the occupier pay a heavy price. We will not settle for attacking around Gaza, but we will bomb the center of the so-called State of Israel.” 

5 August 

  • Israel announced the start of a military operation in the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon with multiple strikes on targets of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. Action was deemed necessary after the group refused to back down from its intentions to carry out attacks against the country.
  • The military said six sites were hit by fighter jets and armed drones as it launched Operation Breaking Dawn, including a rocket material manufacturing site, weapons production site, rocket launching position and military site.
  • One of the strikes killed one of the PIJ’s senior commanders, and its commander in the northern region of the Gaza Strip, Taysir al-Jabari. Al-Jabari planned numerous deadly attacks against Israel. He held several senior positions within the organization in the past, including that of chief of operations and the chief coordinator with Hamas. 
  • According to the IDF, Jabari was responsible for the concrete threat in the last three-four days to fire anti-tank missiles and kill Israeli civilians or soldiers in the Gaza border area.
  • The IDF also targeted the head of the anti-tank guided missile array and several squads preparing attacks. The army estimated that between 10-20 terror operatives had been killed in the opening wave of airstrikes.
  • According to the Palestinian Health Ministry a 5-year-old girl was among those killed.
  • The operation is a targeted campaign against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The IDF is trying not to drag Hamas into the ongoing conflict and is hoping to keep the campaign limited in scope.

This is an ongoing situation.

  • At the time of writing (9am, 7 August 2022 NZT) an estimated 361 rockets have been fired at Israel, dozens shot down by the iron dome and 70 have landed within Gaza, endangering Palestinians.

7 August

Latest:

A rocket launched by Palestinian terror operatives  misfired and hit a Palestinian home in Jabaliya, the Strip’s north, killing several people including 5 children.

Announcement from the Head of the Public Diplomacy Directorate:

A failed rocket attack by Islamic Jihad is responsible for the killing of children in Jabalya.

Contrary to Palestinian reports regarding the incident in Jabalya, it must be clarified:
We have in our possession videos that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this incident was not the result of an Israel Defense Forces’ strike. Israeli security forces did not strike in Jabalya in the past few hours.
It has been irrefutably proven that this incident was the result of the misfiring of a rocket launched by Islamic Jihad.
Following reports in Palestinian and international media, an investigation took place which unequivocally showed that this was not an Israeli strike but rather, a rocket launched from within the Gaza Strip which fell in the heart of Jabalya. All fire by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is a double war crime: it is shooting at civilians, and using Gazan civilians as human shields.
This incident is an example of Islamic Jihad harming the residents of Gaza.
All harm to innocent civilians is tragic.
_____________________________

Update:

A ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was announced on 8 August, to take effect at 23.30.

On 9 August, Prime Minister Yair Lapid addressed the people of Gaza:

“I want to speak directly to the residents of the Gaza Strip and tell them: There is another way. We know how to protect ourselves from anyone who threatens us, but we also know how to provide employment, a livelihood and a life of dignity to those who wish to live by our side in peace.

There is another way to live. The way of the Abraham Accords, of the Negev Summit, of innovation and prosperity, of regional development and joint projects. The choice is yours. Your future is in your hands.”