Israeli forces arrested a top commander of the Palestinian Islamic movement in the West Bank, a day after exchanged threats between the group and Israel amid possible clashes in the strip.
Israel's security service (Shin Bet) confirmed that commander Tariq Qaadan had been detained by Israeli forces in Arrabeh, southwest of Jenin, in the northern West Bank.
A Shin Bet official stated that Qaadan was arrested since he is "a senior officer in the terrorist group’s West Bank wing."
Qaadan was arrested along with 13 other Palestinians during night raids in the West Bank,.
The arrests came two days after Israel accused Jihad movement of planning an attack in retaliation to the demolition of one of its attack tunnels in Gaza which killed 12 Hamas and Jihad members.
Israel warned Jihad against any attacks or plans to target its facilities.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Tel Aviv will respond harshly if Jihad attacked Israel.
“We will take a very strong hand against anyone who tries to attack us from any sector," Netanyahu said in the weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu's statement came few hours after Defense Ministry’s chief liaison office with the Palestinians Maj-Gen Yoav Mordechai recorded a video in Arabic addressing Jihad leaders Ramadan Shalah and his deputy Ziad Nakhlah warning that Israel knew of their plans and was prepared to respond to them.
Mordechai said that in case of a Jihad attack against Israel, both Shalah and Nakhlah will be held responsible.
Jihad considered Mordechai's statements a direct threat against group and considered it “an act of war” vowing to confront them.
Amid the exchanged threats, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov described Hamas and Jihad's threats as "reckless" saying they could lead to dangerous escalations.
"The reckless actions and statements of militants in Gaza risk a dangerous escalation. Palestinians have embarked on a course to solve the humanitarian crisis in the Strip and bring back the legitimate authorities. They should not be distracted by extremists,” Mladenov said.
Jihad Hamas condemned a UN envoy's statement for holding Palestinian groups accountable for every tension with Israel, saying he is casting a blind eye towards Zionist threats and aggression.
"We strongly condemn the remarks of Mladenov which ignore the crimes of invaders, the threats against our people, and their right of self-defense," Hamas said in a written statement.
"We will not weaken the the leadership of our people and of our land. The threat by the enemy to harm the leadership is on the border of a declaration of war and we will deal with them,” the organization said in a statement.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Kassim said they had hoped Mladenov criticized Israel for creating tense situations. He added that Israeli occupation is responsible for the escalation when it attacked the "freedom tunnel" and admitted to killing anyone inside it.
Kassim confirmed that Palestinian factions have the right to respond to the occupation's crimes, adding that international community should pressure the occupation for besieging Gaza.
It is not clear whether Qaadan had been arrested to pressure the movement or Israel had information reporting Jihad's movement in West Bank.
Jihad commander Sheikh Khodr Adnan said that the detention of Qaadan is another aggression against the movement and Israeli people, especially following Netanyahu and the so-called "chief liaison office's" threats against Jihad's leaders.
“We reaffirm our right to respond to any aggression, including our right to respond to the crime of aggression on the resistance tunnel,” Jihad's statement said.
“This unjust arrest of the leader Qaadan is a part of the occupation’s latest escalation against Islamic Jihad and our people,” the statement added.
The movement called upon rights groups and international community to respond to this unjust arrest especially that Qaadan is ill due to repeated arrests.