The Islamic Jihad movement will hold elections for a new leadership for the first time since it was established in the 80s, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Sunday, citing sources in Gaza and the West Bank.
The elections will be held in the next few weeks in the same method the Fatah and Hamas movements held their elections.
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According to the report, the terror group's decision stemmed from major disagreements between the movement's leaders in Gaza over general policies, relations with Hamas and Fatah and "resistance" to Israel.
Sources told the newspaper that Jihad leaders such as Abdullah Shami and Abu Hazm al-Najar were among those who supported the effort to expand the movement's role within Palestinian society as opposed to focusing solely on the "armed struggle" against Israel.
Islamic Jihad is due to elect a new politburo, as well as a new regional leadership to "pump new blood into the movement," one of the sources said.
Islamic Jihad launched the majority of the rockets which targeted Israeli communities surrounding Gaza during the latest round of violence, in hopes of dragging Hamas into the fighting as well. However, the Islamist group, which rules the coastal enclave, remained on the sidelines.
After a ceasefire agreement was reached, Islamic Jihad held a mass "victory" rally in Gaza, during which its secretary general, Ramadan Shalah, threatened to fire rockets deep into Israeli territory. "They (Israelis) know how far our rockets can reach," he said.
In elections in Gaza earlier this week, Hamas members selected a new local leadership and delegates to the Shura Council. By next month, the other three branches are to complete their selection, to be followed by the election of the supreme leader, Hamas operatives said.
A senior Hamas operative in the Strip said a majority of newly elected Shura Council delegates from Gaza support Politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, despite disagreements over his unity deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Support from Gaza could increase Mashaal's chance to win re-election.
AP contributed to the report
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org