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Israel extends lockdown as Palestinian leaders warn against assassinations

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An Israeli officer works at the scene following an incident in the central Israeli city of Elad on May 5, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Israeli forces have arrested two young Palestinian men suspected of killing three people and injuring several others in an armed operation, amid rising tensions in the occupied territories ahead of Nakba (Catastrophe) Day in mid-May.

The Israeli police, army and internal spy agency Shin Bet in a joint statement announced the arrests of 19-year-old As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, for the attack in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad on Thursday night.

“A joint team spotted the two suspicious figures near a quarry,” the statement said.

Israeli officials did not immediately provide any further details.

Footage from the scene showed Israeli forces shouting at the men in a forested area, then arresting them.

In another video, al-Rifa’i is seen admitting to the forces that he conducted the operation with Abu Shqeir.

“What did you do here?” an officer asks al-Rifa’i. “An attack… an attack in Elad,” al-Rifa’i responded. The officer then asked him what he did in the attack. “[We] hit people… [me and] my friend, Subhi,” al-Rifa’i said.

The weapons used in the operation were not found on them.

Earlier, Osama Harb, a leader of the Islamic Jihad resistance group, had hailed  the Elad operation, stating it was strongly indicative of the Palestinians’ uprising to avenge ongoing Israeli crimes against holy sites.

“The Palestinian people are determined to restore their freedom and all their rights. They will continue their struggle until all Palestinian refugees return to their homeland,” he said. 

The Islamic Jihad official stressed that Palestinians could not remain silent and indifferent in the face of the Israeli regime’s crimes and its violations of all red lines.

Israel extends closure on West Bank, Gaza crossings

Meanwhile, Israel has extended the closure on crossings with the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip until Monday.

Israeli authorities largely shuttered crossings for Palestinians into the occupied lands on Tuesday and Wednesday as the Tel Aviv regime celebrated the so-called Independence Day, better known as the Nakba or the “Catastrophe” among over 12 million Palestinians worldwide (of which 5.4 million are refugees).

The Nakba Day refers to the occasion when the Israeli entity proclaimed existence in the occupied Palestinian territories in mid-May 1948 and drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homeland. Israelis celebrate the occasion on May 4-5 this year.

Nakba Day is set as May 15 every year, but Israelis celebrate what they call their "Independence Day" in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. 

The officials later extended the shutdown until Saturday night following the Elad attack.

COGAT, the Israeli regime’s military body responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied territories, alleged that exceptions will be made for medical and humanitarian cases.

According to the military liaison to Palestinians, Israeli officials will meet again on Sunday night to assess whether to maintain or end the closure.

‘Gates of Hell to open up if Israel tries to assassinate our leaders’

Moreover, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement has vowed to launch extremely painful and devastating retaliatory strikes against sensitive targets inside the occupied territories if Israeli officials resume the policy of targeted killings against Palestinian figures.

“The assassination of any resistance leaders, above all Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, will open up the gates of the hell to occupiers,” Khaled al-Batsh, a member of the Politburo of Islamic Jihad, said.

He described the Israeli regime's threat to assassinate Sinwar as a threat to all Palestinians, stressing that a heroic battle against Zionist occupiers will begin once any of the Palestinian resistance leaders is targeted.

“Any resident of [the occupied city of] al-Quds considers himself as obliged to support the Palestinian nation. We call on revolutionary youths to bravely fight off Zionists in defense of the Palestinian cause of Palestinians’ aspirations,” Batsh highlighted.

Israeli media figures have been calling for the assassination of top Hamas officials, including Sinwar, in the Gaza Strip, in the aftermath of the attack in the central city of Elad on Thursday night.

Some of them even took those threats to social media, openly calling for Sinwar’s assassination and wishing that he had instead died while he was in prison.

Extremist member of the Knesset Itamar Ben-Gvir called for the military to launch an airstrike on the house of Sinwar.

“The Air Force planes must now launch missiles at the house of Yahya Sinwar, who called for attacks with weapons and axes, and to assassinate him,” Ben-Gvir said.

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