Iran plays its “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” card in Tehran meetings 

Source: Iran plays its “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” card in Tehran meetings – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Tehran considers Nakhala and a visit with his group an important event, even though PIJ is a relatively minor player on the Palestinian scene.

By Seth J. Frantzman
January 1, 2019 04:24
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei met with Ziad Nakhala, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in Iran on Monday. The meeting is the latest attempt by the Iranian regime to involve itself in Palestinian politics. Khamenei said that a Palestinian state would eventually be established in Tel Aviv and sought to highlight Palestinian “resistance” while contrasting it with the “defeat” of Arab countries in the region.

The important meeting is with one of  the smaller Palestinian terrorist groups, but buttresses the long-term support and connection between the Iranian regime and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Ziad Nakhala was chosen to lead PIJ in September 2018. He was celebrated by Turkey’s Anadolu as living a “lifetime of resistance” when he was chosen. According to the Turkish media biography he was born in 1953 in Khan Yunis and served time in Israeli prison. Released in a 1985 prisoner deal, his house was damaged in the 2014 war in Gaza. Al-Nakhala replaced Ramadan Shallah, who had run the group since 1995. When he was chosen, he was appointed along with a group of other unnamed men to PIJ’s “politburo,” according to Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s media channel.

Nakhala has been central to the group’s policy for decades and shows up on US State Department cables in 2008 and 2011 in relation to two attempts at ceasefires in the Gaza Strip, in which Hamas sought Egyptian mediation to relieve the siege of Gaza imposed by Israel after Hamas came to power. Some sources believe that PIJ is controlled by Iran. In October PIJ fired dozens of rockets from the Gaza Strip, allegedly after orders from Tehran.

Tehran considers Nakhala and a visit with his group an important event, even though PIJ is a relatively minor player on the Palestinian scene. It is the one real frontline group Iran has in Gaza that Tehran thinks can pressure Israel at its behest. Khamenei stressed that the Palestinian people would eventually achieve victory through “resistance,” in his discussion. He claimed that in the last conflicts “the Zionists regime begged for ceasefires.” PIJ reported to Iran about its activities and preparations, claiming that in any subsequent war with Israel it could fire “thousands of missiles” that would reach Tel Aviv and other areas. Khamenei was happy, saying that eventually a Palestinian government would arise in Tel Aviv.

In an interview with Al-Alam media in Tehran, the PIJ leader went further in his claims, arguing that in any new war with Israel that “all the axes of resistances will participate.” He claimed the Palestinian Authority had stalled in its march towards statehood and that the “resistance,” by which he meant Hamas and PIJ, were in very good condition today. He also said that in the next conflict Iran and Hezbollah will support the Palestinians. This was an important assertion, because it appears to represent a threat to launch a multi-front war against Israel. The comments were reported in Tasnim news agency. The meeting was also highlighted in English on Iran’s PressTV and also Khamenei’s Twitter, where he claimed that “as along as resistance exists, the decline and perishing process of the Zionist regime will continue,” paraphrasing what he told the PIJ leader.

The meeting in Iran included at least eight men, at least several of whom appeared to be PIJ senior leadership. It was not entirely clear how they had arrived in Iran or where they would continue on to after the meeting.
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