Islamic Jihad may respond with force if Israel does not end new policies toward Palestinian security prisoners, the terror group’s military wing said in a brief statement on Thursday.
“We announce a state of general alert among the ranks of our fighters. We are completely prepared and at the ready,” the al-Quds Brigades said.
Islamic Jihad chief Ziad al-Nakhaleh had said on Wednesday night that the group would be willing to go to war on behalf of its prisoners.
“Palestinian Islamic Jihad will not leave its members in Zionist prisons to be victims at the hands of the enemy. Accordingly, we will stand with them and support them with everything we have, even if this means we must go to war for their sake,” said al-Nakhaleh.
Islamic Jihad threatened Israel as 250 of its members began a hunger strike on Wednesday in protest of the new Israeli policies, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
After six Palestinian security prisoners fled Gilboa Prison in northern Israel in early September, the Israel Prisons Service implemented a number of measures in an attempt to reduce the chances of another escape. Five of the six escaped prisoners were members of Islamic Jihad.
Palestinians carry a poster of the Islamic Jihad terror group, reading in Arabic: “The second great escape from the prisons of the Zionist enemy – 1987 Saraya Prison – 2021 Gilboa Prison,” following the escape of six Palestinians from an Israeli prison, in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, on September 6, 2021. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
The steps have included breaking apart clusters of Islamic Jihad prisoners and moving some to other jails, as well as solitary confinement for certain inmates. Family visits have also been postponed. The fugitives — who have since been recaptured — were dispersed to five prisons across the country.
Several other Palestinian security prisoners are currently on hunger strikes. The International Committee for the Red Cross has expressed specific concerns over the welfare of two: Kayed Fasfous, who has refused to accept food for 92 days, and Miqdad Qawashmeh, an alleged Hamas member who has been striking for 85 days.
Both Fasfous and Qawasmeh are being held under Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which means they have not been formally charged with a crime. Israel says the controversial procedure is necessary to prevent terror attacks when it has intelligence that cannot be revealed in court. Palestinians and their advocates contend that Israel abuses the practice.
“We are concerned about potentially irreversible consequences of such prolonged hunger strike[s] to their health and life,” said Robert Paterson, ICRC health delegate, in a statement last week.
According to the Hamas terror group, Qawasmeh received a phone call from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday. The terror chief reportedly told Qawasmeh that his hunger strike reflected “the greatest exemplars of sacrifice” in the struggle against Israel.