Islamic Jihad Expected to Use Return Marches as Pretext to Spark Military Conflict

An interview with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhala reveals that the terror organization could push for war this summer and exploit the return marches along the Gaza-Israel border to ignite an armed confrontation with Israel

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On May 7, 2019, the day after the end of the recent flare-up in the Gaza Strip, the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen TV station in Lebanon interviewed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhala, who exploited the opportunity to send threatening messages to Israel. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) published the main points of the interview and analyzed their implications. The analysis suggests that the PIJ, an Iranian proxy, will exploit the return marches along the Gaza-Israel border to ignite an armed confrontation with Israel.

According to the publication, al-Nakhalah said that if Israel uses violence or opens fire during the return march on Nakba Day (May 15, 2019), during which, he said, tens of thousands of Palestinians will participate, the “resistance” (i.e., the terrorist organizations) will defend the Palestinian people.

In ITIC assessment, that description of the event was made by al-Nakhalah was aimed at justifying more PIJ military initiatives, preventing attempts to reach a viable arrangement and exploiting the return marches to make the situation on the ground deteriorate.

The Center further assessed that al-Nakhalah (with Iranian backing) is well aware that the methods used by the PIJ are liable to lead to a broad military confrontation in the Gaza Strip this coming summer. In the interview, al-Nakhalah sent Israel the message that the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are ready for the confrontation, which he claims will be initiated by Israel.

Regarding the Iranian involvement in Gaza, the ITIC added that al-Nakhalah avoided clarifying the PIJ’s escalation strategy (behind which, in ITIC assessment, stood Iran), undermining Hamas’ interest to promote an arrangement which would provide a response for the severe economic hardships of the Gaza Strip population. The PIJ’s strategy challenges the Egyptian mediation efforts to calm the situation in the Gaza Strip and prevent an escalation that could lead to a broad military campaign serving the interests of Iran, the PIJ’s sponsor.

The PIJ Secretary General also said that Egypt understands that the PA is not interested in returning to Gaza. According to the publication, al-Nakhalah noted that Mahmoud Abbas, who regards the “resistance” organizations as militias, asked them to disarm. He said it was a message from the Arab regimes and not from Mahmoud Abbas himself. He added that Mahmoud Abbas does not have the power to force the Gaza Strip to disarm, and therefore the internal Palestinian reconciliation has once again reached a stalemate. Al-Nakhalah claimed that Egypt was not monitoring the internal Palestinian reconciliation because it had begun to understand that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority does not want to return to the Gaza Strip.

 

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