Small Wars Journal

What The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Won from The War in Gaza

Wed, 08/17/2022 - 3:02am

What The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Won from The War in Gaza

Anna Mahjar-Barducci



Despite the severe blows inflicted by the Israeli army, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza has gained various advantages from the last war against Israel. Some Western media reported that Israel "won" the war. However, even though Israel eliminated two important leaders of the terrorist movement, the Islamic Jihad managed to strengthen its image and influence in the region. Until August 5, when Israel launched the preemptive strike against Gaza, initiating the "Breaking Dawn" operation, the Islamic Jihad was only a secondary movement, which could not compete with the popularity of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, after three days of war and about 1,100 missiles sent towards Israel, the Islamic Jihad became one of the most important resistance movements in the region and obtained Teheran's full support.


How the War Started

On August 1, during an operation in Jenin, Israel arrested an Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank, Bassam al-Saadi, along with his son-in-law Ashraf Zidan Mohammad al-Jada. Immediately after the arrest, the Islamic Jihad began planning terrorist attacks against Israeli settlements around the Gaza Strip, with the aim of putting pressure on Israel for the release of Bassam al-Saadi and the Palestinian administrative detainee Khalil Awawdeh, who became one of the symbols of the Palestinian resistance, after more than 150 days of hunger strike. The Israeli army (IDF) has therefore raised the alert level in the south of the country, closing the roads to civilian vehicles.


The Israeli population, feeling under siege, asked the government to intervene. Hence, on the August 5, the Israeli government decided to preemptively bomb Gaza, after receiving intelligence that the Islamic Jihad was ready to attack Israel. The bombing (although it caused civilian casualties) targeted Taysir al-Jabari, an important commander of the Al-Quds Brigades (Saraya al-Quds), the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad. The response of the terrorist movement was immediate, the Islamic Jihad showed its military strength, launching missiles towards the South of the country and towards Tel Aviv.


The second day of war - The "Gaza Envelope"

On the second day of war, the Islamic Jihad continued to fire missiles without interruption, especially in the South of the country. One of the proclaimed aims of the organization (during the war) was in fact to make life impossible in the "Gaza envelope" (the area of Israel that is within seven kilometers from the Strip), in order to depopulate it from Israeli citizens.


In part, the Islamic Jihad has succeeded in its purpose. Many inhabitants of the "envelope" have declared that for the first time they have thought of moving from this area, which in every war is struck relentlessly. In fact, various buses evacuated part of the population, exhausted by the continuous launch of missiles, which did not even allow them to leave the mamad, the anti-missile shelter (it is worth noting that from the moment the siren sounds, the population in the "envelope" has only 15 seconds to reach the mamad and only newer homes have one built in the house).


The second day of the war - The meeting in Tehran

The most significant event on the second day of war was the meeting in Tehran of the Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah with the Iranian general Hossein Salami, current commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). During the meeting, Salami said that "the collapse" of the "Zionist entity" is an "irreversible path" and that "the liberation of Jerusalem is imminent".


It is important to underline that on August 4, before the war began, al-Nakhalah met with the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. As reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), during the meeting, Raisi said: "We have no doubts about the victory of the Palestinian resistance and the liberation of Jerusalem ... Today, the Muslim nations in the region very much hate the plundering Zionist entity and consider the resistance to be the major and fundamental line of dealing with it. "


The day before, on August 3, al-Nakhalah also met with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, with the Majlis Speaker Mohammad Baqr Qalibaf and with Ali Akbar Velayati, international relations adviser of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Iran, which is negotiating the nuclear agreements with the United States, has a vested interest in putting pressure on Washington, by using the terrorist movements in Palestine and Lebanon, which receive funding from Tehran, to launch a regional proxy war against Israel, as it has done in the past.


On the evening of the second day of the war, however, Israel hit hard once again the Islamic Jihad, by killing Khaled Mansour, another important leader of the Palestinian movement.


The third day of war - Tisha b'Av

On August 7, the third day of war, Israeli analysts feared that Hamas could enter the conflict. That day, in fact, marked the anniversary of Tisha b'Av (a fasting day in remembrance of mourning events in Jewish history, such as the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC and the Second Temple in 70 AD).


Many analysts expected tensions on Temple Mount (where is located the al-Aqsa Mosque compound), as it was believed that numerous religious Jews would have gone (as per tradition) to pray on the esplanade, making Hamas entry into the conflict inevitable. In the morning of August 7, the Islamic Jihad also sent warning missiles towards Jerusalem (sirens were sounded towards the Beit Safafa area, a predominantly Arab neighborhood, Shoresh, Neveh Ilan and Abu Gosh). The Israeli police was however able to manage the situation, also because the number of religious Jews, who showed up at the Temple Mount, was lower than expected.


The third day of war - The Truce

In the afternoon of August 7, the media announced that Egypt was mediating a truce. The first news of a truce came around eight in the evening, but it was postponed by the Islamic Jihad, which wanted to dictate its conditions until the end. Finally, around 10 pm, the media reported that the Islamic Jihad accepted a ceasefire, after Cairo pledged to mediate the release of Bassam al-Saadi and Khalil Awawdeh. The truce came into effect at 11.30 pm, but the Islamic Jihad launched its last rocket at 11.50 pm towards the "envelope".


It is worth noting that, on the next day, as requested by the Islamic Jihad, Israel sent trucks carrying fuel to Gaza, after the opening the border crossings.


Furthermore, soon after the truce took effect, some Palestinian news sites wrote that Awawdeh could be sent to a hospital for medical treatments, as requested by Islamic Jihad, and then released. However, Israeli newspapers assessed that Israel is in no hurry to release either Awawdeh or al-Saadi. Yet, on August 11, the Israeli media outlet Ynet reported that Israel moved Awawdeh to hospital amid hunger strike. "Khalil Awawdeh surpasses 160 days without eating in protest of his administrative detention without trial; lawyer says he has been using a wheelchair, showing signs of brain damage; Islamic Jihad threatens retaliation if prisoner dies," Ynet wrote.


About the Author(s)

Anna Mahjar-Barducci is a researcher, living in Jerusalem.