Israel threatened to assassinate the leader of Islamic Jihad if he enters Gaza, causing the party to reconsider his upcoming visit, sources said Thursday, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.
Egyptian authorities told Islamic Jihad that Israel rejected the visit and would target leader Ramadan Shalah and his deputy Ziad Nakhla if they went into Gaza, sources close to the discussions told Ma'an.
Islamic Jihad leaders are considering whether to cancel the visit, set to take place on Friday, ahead of Hamas' 25th anniversary celebrations which start the following day, the report said.
Jihad's leadership is in talks with the Egyptian authorities over the matter.
Meanwhile, AFP reported, the Hamas government confirmed on Thursday that its exiled politburo chief Khaled Mashaal was due in Gaza on Friday to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary. News of the planned visit was made public last week.
He had been due to visit Gaza at the start of the year, but the trip never took place.
Hamas "announces the visit of Khaled Mashaal, head of the political bureau, tomorrow December 7, to participate in the celebration of the movement's 25th anniversary," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement quoted by AFP.
Mashaal is to meet members of different movements and residents of Gaza, "as well as representatives of the families of martyrs, prisoners and those injured in the last Israeli aggression against Gaza," the statement added.
The visit, Abu Zuhri added, was "a fruit of the victory of the resistance over the occupation."
Mashaal's trip comes just two weeks after Hamas and Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal which ended Operation Pillar of Defense, an IDF operation which targeted Hamas’s terror infrastructure in Gaza.
The operation began with the targeted killing by Israel of Ahmed Jaabari, who served as the commander of Hamas's "military" terror wing.