Islamic Jihad, Not Hamas, May Be the Greatest Danger in Gaza

March 12, 2019 | Alex Fishman

As Hamas continues its efforts at extortion, rejecting Israeli-Egyptian offers while demanding more money, electricity, and fuel in exchange for less, Alex Fishman points to an even more dangerous threat gaining influence in the Gaza Strip: the rival terrorist group Islam Jihad. Hamas receives crucial funding and support from Iran, but it has other backers and enjoys relative autonomy; Islamic Jihad, by contrast, is almost entirely dependent on Tehran, and seems to follow its orders:

Islamic Jihad was responsible for most of the rocket, anti-tank-missile, and sniper attacks carried out in recent months against Israel. Its leaders, who are hiding in the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut under the leadership of its deputy secretary-general Ziad al-Nahla, have decided to renew military activity from the Gaza Strip. The organization’s representatives in Gaza also stopped coordinating their military activities with Hamas, [which they once did by participating in] a joint war room set up by all the terrorist organizations in the Strip.

And so Hamas today finds itself facing off against an intransigent organization that acts in contravention to its agenda. Islamic Jihad is making sure to carry out its military provocations on the days when Hamas is conducting some sort of dialogue with Israel or with Egypt regarding arrangements in the Strip—and when it attacks, Israel retaliates with attacks on Hamas installations. . . .

[W]hen Israel does not deal with the Islamic Jihad threat, it encourages increased anarchy in Gaza, which will ultimately lead to a ground invasion by the IDF. Hamas, for its part, is waging an ineffective battle against the renegade organization. Several days ago, for example, Hamas’s internal security apparatus arrested Hashem Salem, an Islamic Jihad member who converted from Sunni to Shiite Islam and established a pro-Iranian organization in the Gaza Strip. That’s how it starts: today it’s a small charity, funded by Iran, which supports widows and orphans, but if we do not pay attention, tomorrow that charity will be yet another Iranian military organization in Gaza.

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