Israel eliminates Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi HaLevi conducts an situational assessment at IDF Southern Command on Wednesday. (IDF Photograph)

The Israel Defense Forces, accompanied by border police and members of the Shin Bet security service carried out a targeted raid in Jenin in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, November 29. The Israeli forces eliminated Muhammad Zubeidi, a commander in Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The IDF also eliminated another member of the terrorist group, according to a statement. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian proxy terror group, has posed an increasing threat from Jenin in the last year.

Raids in Jenin are common as it is a hub for Palestinian terror groups. The IDF launched a multi-day operation in July to target Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The IDF said on November 29 that since the October 7 Hamas attack, it has detained more than 2,000 people wanted for terrorism in the West Bank, around 1,100 of whom are linked to Hamas.

The recent Jenin raid was carried out by several units, including IDF reservists, combat engineers and other soldiers. Zubeidi was one of the central figures in PIJ in the Jenin refugee camp, the IDF said. It accused him of being involved in various terrorist activity, including shooting attacks.

During the raid, forces surrounded the building that Zubeidi was in. The IDF found M-16 rifles and other weapons in the building and detained 17 other people. Israeli forces also confiscated improvised explosive devices during the raid, illustrating how common IED threats have become in the northern West Bank. The IDF also used an aircraft, likely a drone, to target a terrorist squad. The use of drones has become more common in operations in Jenin over the last year. An underground shaft was found in Jenin, which looked to be the beginning of a tunnel, according to a photo the IDF distributed.

This incident in Jenin follows other operations in the West Bank since October 7 that have seen an uptick in raids and arrests. There are nightly raids in the northern West Bank and in areas between Ramallah and the Israeli city of Modiin, soldiers told FDD’s Long War Journal. Many Israeli reservists called up after October 7 have also been operating in the West Bank.

In Gaza the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas continued on Wednesday. Hamas released two hostages with Russian citizenship in the early evening.

“IDF special forces and ISA forces are currently with the two released hostages inside Israeli territory. After the released hostages undergo an initial medical assessment, IDF soldiers will continue to accompany them to hospitals, where they will be reunited with their families,” the IDF said.

Hamas claimed they were handing over the Russian citizens “in response to efforts by the Russian President Vladimir Putin.” This appeared to reflect Hamas attempts to get support from Russia. Moscow accused the U.S. of being responsible for the war in Gaza in a statement on Wednesday.

While Israel and Hamas appear ready to continue the pause in fighting for several more days, there is concern in Israel over members of the Bibas family who are held hostage in Gaza. Reports on Tuesday indicated the family may be in the hands of a terrorist group other than Hamas. However on Wednesday, Hamas claimed members of the Bibas family had been killed. The IDF is investigating these claims.

IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari called on people to avoid spreading rumors related to this and other cases. He said Hamas still holds 159 hostages as of the evening of November 29. “As we explained along the way, this number is being constantly updated, it is based on intelligence, on the number of missing persons, which is also being updated,” he said.

Hagari said that the IDF killed three terrorists in Gaza who “violated the conditions of the operational pause, and posed a threat to our forces.” The incident follows another on November 28 in which three explosives were detonated in close proximity to IDF forces. IDF Chief of Staff Herzi HaLevi went to Southern Command and completed a situational assessment on Wednesday. He said the IDF is ready for the next stage of the conflict in Gaza. This followed a “lessons learned” event on Tuesday at Southern Command with key commanders and air force personnel.

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also completed a situational assessment on Wednesday, discussing the hostages in Gaza. He met with Halevi as well as the heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet and intelligence officials. “We are taking every possible measure to return the hostages [home] and to maximize the current framework in which all the women and children held hostage in Gaza will be released. IDF troops in the air, ground, and sea, are prepared to resume operations immediately [should the decision be made],” Gallant said.

Regional threats continued on Wednesday. The northern front has been quiet for Israel as Hezbollah has refrained from carrying out attacks since Friday, November 24. The Alma Research and Education Center, which covers security threats in northern Israel, noted on Wednesday that “Hezbollah continues to uphold the ceasefire, although, according to our understanding, its operatives remain active along the border conducting frequent intelligence reconnaissance. They continue to do it while wearing civilian clothes. However, since their positions along the border have been destroyed, they travel along the sector in vehicles.”

G7 countries called on Tuesday for an end to Houthi threats to shipping. “We especially call on the Houthis to immediately cease attacks on civilians and threats to international shipping lanes and commercial vessels and release the M/V Galaxy Leader and its crew, illegally seized from international waters on November 19,” the statement of the group of nations which includes many of the world’s largest economies said. The Houthis slammed the statement and said they were backing Hamas in Gaza and would continue to target ships they claim are linked to Israel.

The USS Carney downed a drone launched by the Houthis from Yemen on Wednesday. Reports said the drone was a KAS-04, similar to a drone that entered Israeli airspace in May 2021. A drone also harassed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier on Tuesday.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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