Israel has repeatedly carried out air strikes on the Gaza Strip, killing at least 15 people, including a commander of the Palestinian jihadist movement targeted on Friday.
After bombing Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid described the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as “an Iranian proxy that wants to destroy the state of Israel”.
Although it does not have the same long-range missiles as Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, the PIJ has a substantial arsenal of small arms, mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles, and an active armed wing known as al-Quds brigade.
“Islamic jihad is known to oppose the peace process and negotiating approach with Israel. It adopts an armed struggle against Israeli occupation like Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a very close ally of Iran. Because of the connection with Iran, we are seeing one of the causes for the Israeli attack,” Ibrahim Fraihat from the Doha Institute told Al Jazeera.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad was founded in 1981 by Palestinian students in Egypt with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and other areas of what is now Israel. Islamic Jihad is the smaller of the two main Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, and is much larger Hamas group managed.
“Despite being a small group, the jihad is very effective and highly organized. Fraihat said. “Despite its small size, it took part in all the confrontations with Israel.”
Commander is killed
Palestinian jihad has become the driving force in confrontations with Israeli forces. Friday’s air raids kill Taysir al-Jabaria high-ranking figure and commander of the northern region of the movement.
The number of members of the PIJ is difficult to determine, with estimates from last year ranging from about 1,000 fighters to several thousand, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.
Both Hamas, which has fought five wars with Israel since 2009, and the PIJ are listed by the West as “terrorist organisations”. Both received money and weapons from Iran, where PIJ leader Ziad al-Nakhalah met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the day of the attack.
Unlike Hamas, the PIJ refuses to participate in elections and does not appear to have ambitions to form a government in Gaza or the West Bank.
Aerial images show the remains of a residential building hit by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, after Israel launched a “pre-emptive” operation against the Islamic Jihad armed group. pic.twitter.com/JemjcgKGui
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 6, 2022
Training and sponsorship
Iran provides training, expertise and money to Islamic Jihad, but most of its weapons are domestically produced.
Although its base is Gaza, Islamic Jihad also has leadership in Lebanon and Syria, where it maintains close ties with Iranian officials.
The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday the Palestinians were “not alone” in their fight against Israel.
“We will be with you on this path until the end and let Palestinians and Palestinians know that they are not alone,” Major General Hossein Salami said.
Israel assassinates commander
The commander of the Islamic Jihad killed by Israeli forces, al-Jabari, has replaced Bahaa Abu el-Atta, who was also killed by Israeli forces in a 2019 attack.
El-Atta’s murder was the first high-profile assassination by an Israeli jihadist figure since the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip.
Al-Jabari, 50, is a member of the “military council” of Islamic Jihad, the group’s decision-making body in Gaza.
He was in charge of Islamic Jihad operations in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip during the 2021 Israeli offensive, when in 11 days of fighting At least 260 people were killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
The West Coast is present
Islamic Jihad maintains a significant presence in the West Bank town of Jenin, where Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the movement was arrested last week, sparking the crisis.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened to target jihadist leaders living abroad, and Israel said on Saturday it had arrested 19 members of the group in the occupied West Bank. .
Fraihat described a “war in Jenin” over the past five months with the PIJ instigating attacks inside Israel and Israeli forces raiding the city and capturing and killing its members.
“In the West Bank, it has a presence, I would say similar to Gaza. But it is not about size but about strength, effectiveness, and ability to engage militarily in the confrontation with Israel. And for that reason, Israel is trying to arrest its leaders in the West Bank and prevent any actions that Jihad might escalate,” he said.
Al-Jabari’s killing comes after the capture of 62-year-old Bassam al-Saadi by Israeli forces earlier this week.
Israel killed his two sons, who were also jihadists in separate incidents in 2002, and Israeli forces destroyed his home in a fierce battle in The city of Jenin was occupied the same year.
PIJ’s game plan
The leader of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhalah, has promised to retaliate against Israel for its deadly bombardment, including targeting Tel Aviv and other cities. A series of explosions were heard and seen Saturday night over Tel Aviv.
“The Zionist enemy started this aggression and it must expect us to fight non-stop… There will be no armistice after this bombing,” al-Nakhalah said. “There are no red lines in this battle… Tel Aviv will also be one of the missile targets of the resistance… as well as all the Zionist cities.”
Israeli forces continued to target the Gaza Strip with airstrikes for a second day.
Nida Ibrahim explains that tensions have been running high since Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad leader in the occupied West Bank on Monday ️ pic.twitter.com/zX2okqgBdi
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 6, 2022