Alwaght- The power augmentation of the Palestinian resistance groups in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in recent years that apparently spread fear among the Israelis is very much owed to diligence of leaders who have sacrificed their lives to fight against the Israeli occupation. One of these prominent figures who these days has become a nightmare for the Israeli officials is Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the head of the Islamic Jihad who, to the Israeli frustration, is set to lead the resistance movement another four-year term.
On Sunday, the elections of the political office of Islamic Jihad were held in various regions, including Gaza, during which al-Nakhalah was elected as the secretary-general for the second time until 2027.
Al-Nakhalah had no rival in this election, and given the vast popularity he enjoys among the members of his movement and the supporters of the armed resistance, he would not have had difficulty retaining the post even if he had a rival.
Also, Akram Al-Ajouri, the commander of the Islamic Jihad’s military branch, along with Mohammad Al-Hindi, Ali Shahin and Ehsan Ataya, were elected as members of the foreign-based branches of the political office. In Gaza, Nafiz Azzam, Yusuf al-Husaina, Mohammad Hamid, Walid al-Qatati and Ahmed al-Mudallal were chosen as members of the political office. Concerning the members of the West Bank branch, the leadership said that due to the special conditions of this region, the selection process was carried out under special security conditions and the names will remain confidential to avoid Israeli attacks and pressures.
Al-Nakhalah was elected chief of the Islamic Jihad in 2018, replacing Ramadan Shalah who had held the post since 1995.
Islamic Jihad measures and policy
The Islamic Jihad’s renewed trust in al-Nakhalah comes as this movement has made many gains under his leadership in the last few years. Until a few years ago, only the Hamas movement was considered a serious threat to the Israeli regime, but now the Islamic Jihad has grabbed the calm from the eyes of the Israelis, and the two movements in Gaza are fighting side by side against the Israeli occupiers.
Until end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza in 2006, Islamic Jihad had no much power and was carrying out suicide attacks occasionally against the Israeli targets. However, it gained further power overtime and changed its fighting methods.
The Islamic Jihad fighting method is similar to guerilla warfare and does not limit itself to specific military and regional goals. The organizational structure of the movement was initially using small strike groups and the use of small independent units of 4 or 5 people instead of the traditional pyramid shape, but these days its tactics and fighting methods have been improved, and as it increases its military capabilities, it updates its ways of taking on the enemy.
Given the missile and drone achievements the movement made under al-Nakhalah, its forces have quit their defensive policy and embraced an offensive one, and the certain warnings its leaders issue to the Israelis are driven by their power.
In August last year that Tel Aviv waged a war against the Islamic Jihad, the movement’s hands were not tied and during four days, it dealt such blows to the Israeli forces that the latter found continuation of war not in its interest and acquiesced to a ceasefire. Giving in to Islamic Jihad demands unleashed waves of criticism to the Israeli officials, with Israeli media describing the truce disgraceful and admitting the power of the Islamic Jihad.
In addition to military tactics, in recent years, Islamic Jihad has also adopted new ways of fighting, and that is soft war, which in the current world has an effective role in hitting the governing structures of countries. The movement, along with other resistance groups, has demonstrated its power in soft war by hacking into the security and political apparatuses of the Israeli regime hundreds of times.
What was mentioned about its cyber and soft war capabilities is just what the media outlets officially publish, and its fighting approaches show that Islamic Jihad’s capabilities are way beyond what is overt. The fact that the Islamic Jihad is labeled the most dangerous Palestinian movement to Israeli interests is partly because of its soft and hard capabilities.
Power and effectiveness boost
Thanks to its reliance on domestic capacities, the Islamic Jihad has managed to develop its military capabilities and new weapons despite being under siege for nearly two decades in Gaza. The military capabilities of this movement include ground-to-ground, short-range, and medium-range missiles, and drones, and since al-Nakhalah assumed the post, a lot of attention has been paid to this area. The number of Islamic Jihad military forces is estimated to be between 8,000 and 14,000, which is considered a small army for itself. Military exercises of the movement in May last year appeared to show that the Islamic Jihad forces include three infantry units, a snapper unit, and a rocket unit.
The Islamic Jihad movement unveiled its reconnaissance and combat drone named ‘Jenin’ on Quds Day nearly a year ago. According to data provided by the movement, this drone has offensive power and in September 2019, it carried out an attack on a military vehicle of the Israeli army and returned safely to its location. Since drones are effective in today’s wars, the Islamic Jihad is trying to create aerial deterrence against the enemy by increasing its power in this field. Under al-Nakhalah, the movement has moved towards this aim more powerfully.
The scale of effectiveness of the resistance leaders can be measured by the concerns of Israeli and American officials. Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in 2019 in a report said that Tel Aviv leaders closely follow remarks of al-Nakhalah and plan for all threats made by him. This report was a year after al-Nakhalah took the post, and now he and his forces are certainly much more powerful than before.
As much as all resistance leaders in the region, al-Nakhalah warns the Israelis and threatens them with painful blows, and no day goes without he threatened Tel Aviv, something analysts say is expressive of his position in Palestine. Tel Aviv certainly takes the threats seriously. While radicalism guides the Israeli regime to the brink of collapse, such people as al-Nakhalah are carrying the resistance to its summit of development, and the Israeli admission of defeat is indicative of this fact. That the Israeli officials act cautiously is because of a fear of the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the movement’s newly founded branches in the West Bank who have taken the initiative from the Israelis.
Washington and Tel Aviv push to eliminate any Palestinian resistance leaders posing threats to their interests using sanctions and assassination. Al-Nakhalah is a target, too. The US sanctioned him in 2014 for supporting anti-Israeli groups and providing arms to Gaza. After Ramadan Shalah, al-Nakhalah is the second Palestinian leader the US added to this list. But the sanctions not only have not weakened him and the Islamic Jihad, but also the movement secured increasing power.
Finding al-Nakhalah a threat to its existence, the Israeli regime has repeatedly threatened to assassinate him, but has not succeeded in doing so. The Israelis do not tolerate the presence of people like al-Nakhalah as the head of the Islamic Jihad, and they try to eliminate one of the effective pillars of the resistance through assassination to check the movement’s progress.
The reality that al-Nakhalah managed the four-day war against the armed-to-the-teeth Israeli forces and said the resistance movement was ready for a long-term war indicates that his leadership of the Palestinian resistance neutralized the enemy schemes. Visiting Syria, Lebanon, and Iran and meeting their leaders, he has pushed for consolidation of the resistance unity and somehow gave his forces an internationalized aspect.
Expansion of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank under al-Nakhalah
Islamic Jihad mainly operates in Gaza, but it has recently extended the domain of its activities to the West Bank. In recent years, Nablus and Jenin Brigades declared their existence as branches of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and during this period, they have carried out dozens of operations against the Israeli occupation. These resistance groups are strengthening their defense infrastructure day by day so that they can tip the scale in their favor. Accordingly, in December, the Jenin Brigade unveiled its new unit known as ‘Martyr Baha Abul Ata’, showing that despite heightening Israeli crimes, these groups are still growing and their power is increasing day by day.
Also, Saraya Al-Quds, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, in mid-July unveiled its newly founded Tubas Brigade, completing the ‘triangle of resistance’ in the West Bank.
The emergence of the military branches of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank has triggered waves of concern among Tel Aviv officials. The Israelis are afraid that in the event of a conflict, the occupied territories will be the target of Palestinian attacks from both fronts. Launching hundreds of operations in 2022 and the death and wounding of dozens of settlers indicates that strong Islamic Jihad roots have crept into the West Bank and grow more powerful day by day, posing threats to Israelis.
Expansion of the resistance in the West Bank is the newest fighting method by the Islamic Jihad to broaden the battlegrounds and deal blows to the enemy from all fronts. This is a new initiative and a priority developed under al-Nakhalah.
Presence of resistance groups in the West Bank will raise Tel Aviv costs as the latter has to dedicate part of its power to confrontation of them. Over the past few months, the West Bank has been a flash point and troublesome more than Gaza to the Israelis, with the military and Mossad frustrated to neutralize the operations. This is a fruit of the efforts of resistance leaders who are certain armed struggle can help them liberate their occupied territories. Al-Nakhalah is one of these prominent leaders that remains remembered in the history of resistance, and perhaps these leaders deal the finishing blow to the dying Israeli regime which its leaders admit it would not see its 80th anniversary.