November 29, 2023 | The Jerusalem Post

How Hamas is showcasing Islamic Jihad’s Gaza role

Hamas has been trying to portray the two terrorist groups as partners, even equal partners in Gaza.
November 29, 2023 | The Jerusalem Post

How Hamas is showcasing Islamic Jihad’s Gaza role

Hamas has been trying to portray the two terrorist groups as partners, even equal partners in Gaza.

Video footage released on Tuesday evening of Hamas handing over hostages as part of the deal that has seen a pause in fighting in Gaza, revealed the clear presence of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives in the handover, and several appeared to embrace their Hamas partners.

They also joined the Hamas members in walking with the hostages. This was intended by Hamas to show that the two terrorist groups are partners, even equal partners in Gaza.

PIJ has always been a much smaller group than Hamas. It is backed by Iran and often considered an Iranian proxy. Israel has focused several operations specifically on PIJ in Gaza and the West Bank.

The group has thousands of rockets in Gaza and hundreds or thousands of fighters. It is not clear how many or how many areas it controls or how it works with Hamas. For instance it is not clear if the groups divided sectors during their fighting, or if PIJ maintains its own tunnels. However, it is clear now that Hamas is trying to showcase the PIJ role, possibly at the insistence of Iran.

The PIJ gunmen appear in black with unique slogans on their headbands and also unique patches on their arms. Turkey’s Anadolu media noted that “the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group issued a statement late Tuesday confirming the release of Israeli women and children it had been holding in the Gaza Strip.” The report noted that “the Deputy Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad Movement, Muhammad al-Hindi, confirmed that the group’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, handed over the civilian hostages.”

Al-Hindi went on to note that “we can accept the all-for-all equation regarding the detainees. If Israel is ready to release all our prisoners, then we are ready,” in an interview with Al-Jazeera. “The performance of the resistance and the steadfastness of our people is what will decide the fate of the battle,” he said.

PIJ’s role not unnoticed

The role of PIJ has been noted in several media reports about Gaza, including The Telegraph in the UK and the Wall Street Journal. The Hindustan Times put a video online about the hostage handover and noted “on Day 5 of the Gaza ceasefire, while releasing the fifth batch of hostages, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters conducted a huge roadshow. Troops of the [Hamas] Al-Qassam and [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] Al-Quds Brigades were cheered on by huge crowds on the streets of Gaza.” Calling it a roadshow is a good characterization of how Hamas is increasingly using the hostage handovers to create a spectacle, with crowds present and cameras. Hamas was more circumspect the first two days of the handover. Now it is using the daily events for propaganda.

PIJ has a large presence in Jenin in the West Bank. The IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and Border Police eliminated Muhammad Zubeidi, the commander of the Jenin branch of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, according to reports on Wednesday. Hussam Hanoun, another PIJ member was also killed.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jihadism