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Threatening 'fragile' Gaza ceasefire Israel court extends detention of Palestinian leader

Bassam al-Saadi, one of the leaders of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine poses for a picture at the Jenin camp for Palestinian refugees, in the north of the occupied West Bank, on September 10, 2020. - In Palestinian refugee camps in the Israeli-occupied West Bank some residents are taking up arms for a potential power struggle when president Mahmud Abbas, 85, finally leaves the stage. Abbas, leader of the dominant Fatah movement and of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has promised elections in 2021, for the first time in almost 15 years. In Jenin refugee camp, in the north of the occupied West Bank, the walls are plastered with posters showing young Palestinian men wearing keffiyeh scarfs around their necks and clutching AK-47 assault rifles. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP) (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images)
Bassam Al-Saadi, one of the leaders of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine in the West Bank, on September 10, 2020 [JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]

The military court in Ofer has extended the detention of Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Bassam Al-Saadi by six days, threatening the fragile Egypt mediated ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinian resistance group, which came into effect on Sunday night, ending three days of Israeli onslaught that resulted in the death of 48 Palestinians, including 17 children and four women. Another 360 Palestinians were wounded.

There are conflicting narratives about the agreement. PIJ has claimed that the release of Al-Saadi and other senior members is part of the ceasefire deal. PIJ leader Ziyad Al-Nakhalah told a press conference following the announcement of the ceasefire that Egypt had said that it would work with Israel on the release of two prisoners including Al-Saadi.

Israel however refutes this claim and has extended Al-Saadi's detention. Israeli radio is reported saying that Al-Saadi was presented to the military court. His lawyer said that Al-Saadi was beaten and brutally assaulted during his arrest. The Israeli Military Prosecution said that Al-Saadi was interrogated yesterday on a new accusation and the court was asked to extend his detention to complete the investigations.

READ: Israel guards storm Palestinian prisoners' cells

A UN delegation visited Al-Saadi yesterday in Ofer Prison. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, tweeted about the visit. The UN Coordinator explained that the visit came as part of the UN's effort, alongside Egypt and Qatar, to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza.

"Today, I dispatched a #UN team to visit Sheikh Al-Sa'di in Ofer prison to follow-up on UN commitments to maintain calm in #Gaza," said Wencesland on Twitter. "I reiterate that the ceasefire in Gaza is very fragile and I call on all sides to preserve the calm." It's not clear why a UN delegation would be sent to Ofer detention centre to check up on Al-Saadi if the PIJ leader was not crucial to the ceasefire agreement.

The Israeli Minister of Justice, Gideon Sa'ar, denied that there is an Israeli commitment to release Al-Saadi, saying that "there is an Egyptian commitment in this regard and not an Israeli commitment."

"I can say that there is no intention to release Bassam Al-Saadi, and there is also no intention to release the striking prisoner Khalil Awawdeh before the end of the period of administrative detention imposed on him," added Sa'ar.

The occupation forces stormed the city of Jenin early last week and kidnapped Al-Saadi from his home after allegedly assaulting him and his family.

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