September 26, 2022 | Flash Brief

Hezbollah and Iran Are Destabilizing the West Bank

September 26, 2022 | Flash Brief

Hezbollah and Iran Are Destabilizing the West Bank

Latest Developments

The Iranian proxy Hezbollah has quietly been sending arms to the West Bank in a bid to strengthen Palestinian terrorist organizations. Tehran’s goal is to undermine the authority of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and to provide terrorist groups with the means to attack Israel. This tactic is proving successful. Since the May 2021 Gaza-Israel conflict, the West Bank has experienced a major uptick in militant activity from Tehran-directed groups, while PA security forces have either joined this violence or looked the other way.

Expert Analysis 

“Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and their patrons in Tehran understand that war in Gaza will now gain them very little. Stoking unrest in the West Bank, on the other hand, could net new territory. A battle for the future of the West Bank is underway. While the Palestinians may not appreciate Israel’s presence, it may be the only thing preventing yet another takeover by Iranian proxies. – Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President for Research

“Tehran’s military and financial support of Hezbollah empowers terrorist organizations in the West Bank. Furthermore, it erodes the Palestinian Authority’s ability to effectively govern areas under its control at a time when Israel is examining ways to strengthen security ties with its Palestinian counterpart.” – Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Iran Set Its Sights on the West Bank

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami boasted in August 2022 that Iran’s war against Israel has moved from “Gaza to the West Bank,” and that Tehran has already begun to smuggle weapons to the West Bank.

U.S.-designated Palestinian terror organizations backed by Iran have operated in the West Bank since the 1980s. Tehran has only recently made a concerted effort to arm them by smuggling explosives and other weapons into the territory. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed the details in 2021, saying that “Iranian emissaries” had launched a drone from the T-4 airbase in Syria to deliver explosives for West Bank terrorist organizations. The Israeli military shot down the drone before it reached its destination.

A Weak Palestinian Authority

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ approval rating is hovering around 30 percent, while about 70 percent want to see him step down. At the same time, his control of the PA security forces and the West Bank is slipping. Tehran and its proxies have stepped into the power vacuum, creating pockets of lawlessness and hotbeds of terrorism in the West Bank. Nablus and Jenin are the two areas of primary concern.

While the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is at the forefront of this activity, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other armed groups have frequently clashed with IDF troops and attacked Israeli communities. In some cases, PA security forces members have done the same. Compounding the violence is the emergence of splinter factions from PIJ and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in several West Bank cities where the PA has little to no influence.

Israeli Intervention May Prove Necessary

It is unlikely the PA will be able to stop the smuggling of arms by Hezbollah and curb the growing threat of Iran-backed militant organizations without the assistance of the IDF. Just as the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 to combat the threat of terrorism in the West Bank, Israel is now conducting a similar yet more limited operation to stem Iranian influence in the territory.

Related Analysis

Iran-Hezbollah Intelligence Center May Help Hamas Target Israel,” by Jonathan Schanzer

Hezbollah smuggling weapons to the West Bank amid surge in militant activity,” by Joe Truzman


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Lebanon