March 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Palestinian Terrorist Commander Killed in Syria

March 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Palestinian Terrorist Commander Killed in Syria

Latest Developments

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) accused Israel on Sunday of assassinating one of its commanders in Syria amid signs of escalating activities by the terrorist group in the West Bank. Ali Ramzi Al-Aswad, 31, was shot dead outside Damascus in an operation “bearing the fingerprints of the Zionist enemy,” PIJ said in a statement. The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas mourned Al-Aswad as an “engineer” — often a byword for bombmaker.

Expert Analysis

“Palestinian Islamic Jihad is the cat’s paw of the regime in Iran against Israel and a terrorist group that does not have Hamas’ political constraints. We have long known about coordination among anti-Israel terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria, encouraged by Iran, which has sway in both countries.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“With the Muslim fast month of Ramadan beginning this week, Israel will be on high alert for — and possibly looking to preempt — any Iranian or Palestinian attempt to escalate the violence. If Palestinian Islamic Jihad is making tactical inroads among Israel’s Arab minority as well as in Palestinian areas, that could significantly escalate the violence.” Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Damascus as a Terrorist Base

Damascus has long served as base for PIJ, which fought a brief war with Israel across the Gaza border last August and has been expanding operations in the West Bank. Last week, a spokesperson for PIJ in Gaza called on Israeli Arabs to join in a “war” against Israel. Israeli officials declined to comment on today’s attack, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in televised remarks to his cabinet that he may have intended for PIJ ears, said, “We are reaching the terrorists, and their leaders, in every location.”

A Surge in Terror

On Thursday, undercover Israeli commandos killed two PIJ and Hamas terrorists, and narrowly escaped a mob lynching, during a daylight raid on the flashpoint West Bank town of Jenin. That came days after a rare roadside bombing in Megiddo junction, just 15 miles away, that Israel said had been carried out by an infiltrator from Lebanon who may have had links to Hezbollah. Five days after the bombing, a PIJ delegation held talks with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. “During the meeting, they discussed the situation in the area and the challenges in the face of the Palestinian rebellion,” said a statement published by PIJ.

Related Analysis

Israel Suspects Infiltrator From Lebanon in Rare Roadside Bombing,” FDD Flash Brief

The Quiet War between Israel and Iran,” by Jonathan Schanzer


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Palestinian Politics Syria