The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, to give it its full name, is a small organization in comparison with Hamas, but, as an Iranian proxy, it’s a big headache for Israel. This Islamic fundamentalist organization was founded 40 years ago in the Gaza Strip, and its declared aims are the annihilation of the State of Israel by force and the imposition of a state governed by Islamic law. These aims dovetail with those of the leadership in Iran, and the connection between Iran and Islamic Jihad is very close, although it hasn’t always been so.
Islamic Jihad secretary general Ziyad al-Nakhalah is currently in Teheran and directing operations against Israel from there. The organization’s military headquarters is in Damascus, where its supreme military commander, Akram al-Ajouri, resides. The organization has good relations with the pro-Iranian militias in Syria and with Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to documents captured by US military intelligence, Iran transferred grants of millions of dollars for every lethal attack against Israel, and there have been several of those, the worst being the attack at Beit Lid in 1995, in which 22 Israelis were killed.
After Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Islamic Jihad enjoyed almost complete freedom of action, and managed to grow in size to some 20,000 activist, most of them organized in the Al-Quds Brigades, trained militias that operate the rocket launchers and mortars. Islamic Jihad also has cells and infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, mainly in the north, in the Jenin area, where the organization’s regional leader, Bassam al-Saadi, was arrested last week, setting off the current conflagration.
$100 million annual budget
The top leadership of the organization and hundreds of its members are in Syria and in Lebanon, sponsored by Hezbollah, which runs its finances. According to sources in Israeli intelligence, Islamic Jihad has an annual budget of $100 million, most of which is provided by Iran in payments made via money changers and supposed welfare organizations.
The Iranian Red Crescent, a supposedly medical organization that is meant to help in setting up clinics in the Gaza Strip, is another institution that serves as a pipeline for cash transfers to the terrorist organization.
Iran also supplies weaponry, among other things advanced anti-aircraft missiles, and technological know-how for Islamic Jihad arms workshops in the Gaza Strip.
In the previous decade, because the heads of Islamic Jihad refrained from expressing support for the Houthi rebels, another Iranian proxy, in the civil war in Yemen, Iran cut off support. Only after a year of attempts at persuasion did the then leader of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shalah, go to Teheran and pledge allegiance to Islamic Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, who has since been assassinated. Since then, Iran has awarded Islamic Jihad aid amounting to some $70 million annually. Because of the economic situation in Iran itself and the sanctions against it, the amount of aid has not been raised despite requests from Islamic Jihad,
A mentioned, the organization has thousands of activists in the Gaza Strip, and it has a few thousand rockets and missiles, most of them home produced and not very reliable. The killing of its top commanders in the past few days considerably weakens it, as does the destruction of its rocket production and storage facilities. The organization, with its militant ideological stance and financial backing from Iran, will, however, be able to recover under the protection of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 7, 2022.
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