Palestinian Islamic Jihad claims senior engineer assassinated by Israel in Syria

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The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip claimed on Sunday morning that Israel had murdered one of its senior members, an engineer, in Syria.

In a statement, the PIJ’s military wing, al-Quds Brigades, said 31-year-old Ali Ramzi al-Aswad was shot dead by “agents of the Zionist enemy” in the Damascus area. The terror group said al-Aswad was its “leader” and engineer.

The PIJ described the killing of al-Aswad as “a cowardly assassination that bore the fingerprints of the Zionist enemy.”

There were no further details about the alleged assassination.

The terrorist group said that al-Aswad’s family came from the northern city of Haifa and settled in a refugee camp in Syria after Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. The PIJ said that he joined the group and worked as an engineer, and that he eventually became a senior commander.

“The Zionist enemy is responsible for this crime,” said the PIJ, promising a response.

On Saturday night, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at a southern Israeli town, without any damage or injuries. The attack came after four Palestinians, at least two of whom were members of terrorist groups, were shot dead on Thursday by undercover Israeli forces during a daytime raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The operation targeted Yusuf Shreim, 29, a member of the military wing of the Hamas terrorist group, and Nidal Khazem, 28, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Over the past year, groups based in Gaza – notably Islamic Jihad – have repeatedly fired rockets at Israel in response to members killed or captured in the West Bank.

File: Islamic Jihad launches rockets towards Israel from the Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The military did not respond to Saturday’s rocket attack with airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. As a matter of policy, Israel responds with airstrikes against Hamas assets in Gaza under rocket attacks.

The lack of airstrikes in response to the rocket attack, as well as overnight arrest raids by the army in the West Bank, were thought to be linked to Sunday’s meeting in Egypt aimed at helping foster regional calm ahead of a sensitive period Ramadan, which starts at the end of this week.

Israeli, Palestinian, American, Egyptian and Jordanian officials are to meet in Sharm el-Sheikh for the second time, following a similar meeting last month.

Last week, a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip in response to a deadly Israeli raid on the West Bank landed on Israeli territory near the border security barrier. Several hours later, Palestinians set off an explosive device near troops operating on the border.

There was no response to that rocket attack either, but the IDF hit a Hamas observation post after the border bombardment.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting almost nightly raids on the West Bank amid a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Palestine. Those tensions have escalated further in recent weeks, with a cycle of deadly Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an increase in settler violence.

Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 14 Israelis dead and many others injured.

At least 85 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them in attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were unrelated civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

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