Sunday, October 21, 2018

Palestinian Islamic Jihad's New Leader 'Will Seek To Satisfy Iran'

New Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader ‘Will Seek to Satisfy Iran’

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second-largest armed terrorist faction in the Gaza Strip, announced at the end of last month that it had a new leader.
Ziad al-Nakhleh, formerly the deputy secretary-general of the Iran-backed Palestinian group, was named as the successor to outgoing leader Ramadan Shalah.
Like Shalah, Nakhleh resides abroad, traveling back and forth between Syria and Iran. He will be PIJ’s third leader. Fathi Shiqaqi, the group’s founding leader, was reportedly killed by Israel in Malta in 1995. After that assassination, Nakhleh was appointed as PIJ’s deputy leader and remained in that position until becoming its head in recent weeks.
He will now remotely lead a powerful and well-armed guerrilla-terrorist army that has its own arsenal of rockets in Gaza, weapons-production centers, Gazan battalions, and terror tunnels. PIJ and Hamas are the only two Gazan factions that possess in their inventories mid-range locally produced rockets of the type that were fired in the middle of the night on October 17 targeting Beersheva, destroying a home. PIJ has denied responsibility for the attack, which could plunge Gaza into a new escalation.

Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Alon Eviatar, an expert on the Palestinian arena and a former adviser to Israel’s Coordination Unit for Government Activities in the Territories, said that Nakhleh “is a central and dominant figure, cut from the cloth of Islamic Jihad — the front and center symbol of the jihad. He is a loyal ally to the Iranians and belongs to them.”

Nakhleh’s organization serves as Iran’s direct proxy in Gaza, receiving funds and combat and weapons assistance. The organization openly subscribes to Shiite Iran’s Khomenist radical ideology, making PIJ unique among Palestinian armed groups in that regard.

Hamas, for its part, views itself as a Palestinian branch of the hardline Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, and its relationship with Iran is a marriage of convenience, due to a lack of better regional sponsors. In that regard, Hamas’s ideological leanings are different than those of PIJ.

PIJ’s founder and first leader, Shiqaqi, has praised Iran’s Shiite Islamic revolution in his numerous works. Other Sunni groups tend to take a far more suspicious view of Iran’s Shiite Islamist agenda.

The report also quotes PIJ insiders as saying that “Iran was pleased with Nakhleh’s election, which left Mohammed al-Hindi with the post of deputy secretary-general,” adding that “Iran favors Nakhleh over Hindi, given the latter’s close positions to Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Hamas movement.”

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