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Ron Ben-Yishai  

 

Standoff between Hamas, Islamic Jihad behind rocket fire on Israel

Conflicting allegiances on Syria come between Iran, Hamas; the beneficiary: Gaza's second largest, currently richest, terror group

Published: 06.24.13, 14:08 / Israel Opinion

Surprising though it may be, there is a close connection between the civil war raging in Syria and the Monday overnight shooting from Gaza at southern Israel. The direct cause of the shooting is a skirmish between Hamas and the second largest group operating from the Strip, the Islamic Jihad.

 

There have been considerable tensions between the two terror organizations, as Hamas supports the Sunni Syrian rebels, while the Islamic Jihad remains faithful to the Shiite regime of Iran, a supporter of Bashar Assad's Alawite regime.

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In fact, Iran and Hezbollah have given financial support to the Islamic Jihad, while before the Syrian uprising and Hamas' subsequent turning against Assad, the Islamic Republic has bankrolled both Gaza-based groups.

 

As things stand, there is a profound rift between Iran and Hamas, which has forced the Palestinian group to seek other sponsors and produce its own artillery as a substitute for the shipments from Iran, which has grown increasingly rare – though haven't come to a complete halt; whereas the Islamic Jihad and other Salafist groups at the Strip are enjoying massive support from Iran.

 

Iran is apparently pushing the Islamic Jihad to act against Israel in order to turn some of the international spotlight away from Syria. It's important to emphasize – both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are of the Sunni persuasion, yet while Hamas decided to pledge its support to the Sunni rebels in Syria, the Jihad remained faithful to Iran.

 

This is the reason why Iran bestowed its support on the Salafist groups among the Bedouin inhabitants of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Fighters affiliated with those groups travel to Iran and Lebanon seeking financial support, which only works to ratchet up the pressures at the Strip.

 


תומכי הג'יהאד האיסלאמי. עידוד מאיראן לפעול עכשיו (צילום: רויטרס)

Islamic Jihad rally in Gaza (Photo: Reuters)

 

What apparently caused the rocket fire on Israel overnight Monday was an incident on Sunday wherein Hamas operatives shot dead an Islamic Jihad official. Hamas denied the allegations, saying he was shot accidentally from his own gun; yet the rival group says he was killed because he was one of the main operators of the rocket launch team.

 

In siding with the Syrian rebels, Hamas has joined the majority of the Arab world, and above all Egypt, a powerful neighbor whom Hamas regards as key for its goals. Neither is Hamas interested in breaching the terms of its recent Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement with Israel, which brought Operation Pillar of Defense to a halt.

 

Hamas is seeking to establish itself as Gaza's legitimate ruler, one that cares for the welfare of its citizens, whereas the Islamic Jihad is guided by Iran and Hezbollah.

 

Through Iranian help, the Islamic Jihad's rocket launcher is the equal, if not the superior, of Hamas'. The reason for this is twofold: Firstly, the IDF manages to intercept a large proportion of the weapons shipments into Gaza, meaning both groups are reliant on self-produced weaponry; yet the Islamic Jihad, at this moment in time, is a richer organization than Hamas and can invest greater resources in the productions of missiles.

  

The Islamic Jihad has not assumed responsibly for the overnight attack, yet it issued a statement to the effect it terminates its relations with Hamas and thus no longer sees itself as bound to the understandings achieved between the Gazans and Israel in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense.

 

It is thus apparent how the consequences of the Syrian war and the cast differences between the various Islamic groups are felt not only in Lebanon but elsewhere in the region. Should the war go on and on, it might bring about further deteriorations such as this.

  

 

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