Pictured: July 1, 2023 Leaders of Islamic Jihad meeting Iran's Supreme Leader in Tehran. Islamic Jihad chief says his Iran-backed group was forming fighting units across W. Bank
Since 2021, Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad have become more dominant in the West Bank creating pockets of lawlessness and hotbeds of terrorism. In an interview published on July 1, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, acknowledged that with Iran’s assistance, his terrorist organization has established “combat battalions in all Palestinian cities in the West Bank.”
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Via Foundation For Defense of Democracies
December 8, 2023
Two terror tunnels shafts in the West Bank were uncovered during an overnight operation in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on December 6. Terror tunnels are used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and to a limited degree by Hezbollah in Lebanon, but their use in the West Bank is a relatively new development. During the operation, the IDF detained 10 Palestinian terrorists and found three bomb-making labs. The IDF also confiscated illegal weapons. During the operation, clashes took place with Palestinian gunmen, injuring one IDF soldier.
“The discovery of tunnel shafts in Jenin is a serious concern. Iranian-backed terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, must not put down terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. These groups want to present a threat to Israel and transform areas of the West Bank into a miniature version of the terror threat they created in Gaza before October 7. Eliminating Hamas and other terror groups in the West Bank is an important and complementary goal of the war against Hamas in Gaza.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow
“The ongoing escalation of violence in the West Bank, which started two-and-a-half years ago, persists without any sign of relenting. It has become evident that terrorist organizations are adapting and devising strategies to confront the Israeli military. Furthermore, Israel’s military operation in Jenin in July was only a stopgap measure, implying the need for a more substantial operation to remove Palestinian terrorist organizations in the northern West Bank.” — Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal
1,200 Hamas Members Arrested in West Bank Since October 7
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said on December 4 that the IDF has arrested 1,200 Hamas operatives in the Judea and Samaria (sometimes referred to as the West Bank) since the Hamas attack on October 7. “We are increasing the fight against terrorism, so far we must say with great success,” he said. Halevi said that some of the 1,200 Hamas members detained in the West Bank were involved in “very serious attacks in the past, some that were planning to carry out future attacks.” The IDF also said on December 6 that it detained an additional 16 terrorist suspects throughout the West Bank.
Hamas Members Cheered in West Bank after Prisoner Release
Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners guilty of a range of crimes during the pause in fighting between November 24 and December 1 in exchange for innocent Israeli hostages held in Gaza. Palestinians in Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, raised Hamas flags and cheered the released prisoners. The mother of one of the released Palestinian prisoners said, “with our soul, with our blood, we will redeem you, Hamas.” The cheers for the prisoners have led to concerns that support for Hamas in the West Bank may be skyrocketing, according to a report by France 24.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas Presence in the West Bank
Israel said on November 29 that its military forces killed two Islamic Jihad terrorists in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. According to a Haaretz report, Israeli forces surrounded a building where the two men, Muhammed Zubeidi — wanted for the murder of an Israeli citizen — and Hussam Hanoun, were located. The two terrorists then began firing at the Israeli soldiers, who returned fire. Upon entering the building, Israeli forces located the two dead men and seized improvised explosive devices, ammunition, and military gear.
Since the war with Hamas began on October 7, the Israeli military has arrested more than 2,000 wanted persons in the West Bank. Approximately 1,100 of those arrested are affiliated with Hamas.
Expert Analysis - West Bank Important Player in Iran's Plan to Bring Terrorism To Israel
“Over the last two years, the West Bank has emerged as an important player in Iran’s plan to bring terrorism to Israel’s borders. Moreover, this is a deliberate Iranian strategy to exert its influence in the region and exploit the Palestinian Authority’s weak governance in the West Bank.” — Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow and Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal
“Since the beginning of the Gaza war, the Israel Defense Forces has been operating in a defensive posture against other fronts, namely Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Today’s operation proves the Israeli military has effectively separated the West Bank from other fronts and will continue to work against terrorist groups despite the ongoing war in Gaza.” — Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal
Iran-Backed Terror Organizations Still Active in West Bank
According to FDD research, there have been approximately 900 terror attacks in the West Bank since October 7. Since 2021, Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad have become more dominant in the West Bank, creating pockets of lawlessness and hotbeds of terrorism. The northern West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm are known centers of power for the Iran-backed organizations.
Iran’s Investment in West Bank Terror
Iran has provided Palestinian terrorist organizations in the West Bank and Gaza with significant financial support, technical expertise, and training. In an interview published on July 1, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, acknowledged that with Iran’s assistance, his terrorist organization has established “combat battalions in all Palestinian cities in the West Bank.” In an interview with the BBC on October 7, Ghazi Hamad, a spokesperson for Hamas, said his organization is receiving direct backing from Iran.