During Escalation Between Israel And Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Iran-Backed Shi'ite Factions In Iraq Vow To Support PIJ, But Fail To Deliver

August 8, 2022

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On August 5, 2022, Israel targeted several top military commanders from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organization – starting with Taysir Al-Jabari, who was the northern Gaza commander of PIJ – and commenced operation Breaking Dawn. The eliminations of the commanders and some PIJ operatives took place following several days of tension and high alert sparked by information about the organization's intention to fire anti-tank weapons at vehicles travelling on roads in Israel from the nearby Gaza Strip. In response to the killings, the organization launched several hundred rockets at Israel.

Iran-backed Iraqi resistance factions hurried to express solidarity with and support for PIJ, which is also backed by Iran. One of the groups threatened to attack what it refers to as Israeli targets in northern Iraq.

Despite the warnings and expressions of solidarity, during the three-day confrontation none of these groups carried out their threats and no offensive action was taken against American or Israeli targets.

The following is a review of responses from Iran-backed Iraqi resistance factions to the killings of PIJ commanders and operatives and attacks on their positions in Gaza.

Iran-Backed Militias: the Entire Axis of Resistance Supports the Palestinian Factions; Regimes Normalizing Relations with Israel are Accomplices to the Crime

As stated, the militias which are known to be backed by Iran, expressed support for PIJ and the rocket attacks on Israel and stressed the unity of the axis of resistance. Some threatened to take action but in fact made do with general threats.

A few hours after the elimination of Al-Jabari, the Al-Nujaba Movement published a statement which asserts that its members are "soldiers in this sacred campaign… Our people and the weapons at our disposal are waiting for a sign from you."[1]

Akram Al-Ka'abi, secretary-general of the Al-Nujaba Movement, also stressed that his organization is prepared to act. He tweeted that in its attack on Palestine "the Zionist entity" has violated its obligations and betrayed the Egyptian mediation, and mentions that it is even possible that the regimes that are normalizing relations with Israel are party to Israel's treachery and betrayal. Al-Ka'abi writes that Israel's efforts to divide the Palestinian resistance factions have failed and the factions have asserted their unity. Addressing the Palestinians, he concludes, "This campaign belongs to all of us. We stress that you are not alone and the entire axis of resistance stands by your side. We are on alert and in a high state of readiness."[2]

Abu Ala' Al-Walai, the secretary-general of the Sayyid Al-Shuhada Brigades sent condolences to "brothers in arms" in the Palestinian resistance in which he expresses support for their intention to take revenge. Al-Walai stresses, "The unity of the resistance along the entire front of the conflict in the region," and writes that, "The weeping over every attack against the occupation which is perpetrated in Iraq, will be heard in the heart of Tel Aviv."[3] He ends his tweet with the hashtag #Ashura[4] Gaza.

On the following day, the Al-Shuhada Brigades information bureau announced that it was directing all its information resources to the support of the Palestinian resistance factions.[5]

The Hizbullah Brigades have also pointed an accusatory finger at the Arab regimes which have normalized relations with Israel and in posts on various social media it expresses amazement at "the continuation of the Arab silence on the part of those who rushed toward the shameful and humiliating normalization with the criminal entity and today they observe the dismembering of our brothers the Palestinian Arabs while not a shred of the Arabness that they profess to share stirs within them." Hizbullah claims that what it describes as the repeated attacks by the Zionists on the Palestinian people are the result of the normalization, and that Israel exploits the support of the U.S. and of its allies from among the rulers who have normalized relations with it in order to continue with the assassinations. It maintains that these operations undertaken by Israel strengthen the legitimacy of the Islamic resistance. The statement also reads, "As Islamic resistance which has placed the Zionists at the top of the list of its enemies, we stress our support for our jihad brothers in Gaza. We do not condemn [only] with words but vow action…"[6]

Iran-Backed Groups: Israeli Bases in Northern Iraq are Legitimate Targets

More explicit threats to take action were heard from the Shi'ite groups which were established during the past two years and which most likely are a front for the older and better-known Iran-backed militias.

On August 5, on its Telegram channel, the Islamic Resistance – Ahrar Al-Iraq (Freemen of Iraq) Brigade posted condolences to "the Palestinian brothers for the martyrs' deaths of the innocents." The group, which first appeared in June 2022 and claimed responsibility for several attacks on Turkish targets in northern Iraq,[7] asserts that "We have one enemy, even if it is in different locations. One of our principles is to banish the occupation in all its forms and to stand by the oppressed everywhere." Therefore, the group announces that, "The Zionist occupation and its bases in northern Iraq, which we know about, are legitimate targets, in addition to the Turkish and American occupation armies." The group declares, "You know that our statements are not just ink on paper, so expect us."[8]

The Liwa Thar Al-Muhandis (Brigade for Avenging Al-Muhandis) group, which first appeared in May 2020 and claimed responsibility for several attacks against American forces in Iraq,[9] declares that it will continue its military activity because, "We have one goal, even if the time and the place are different." In a statement posted on its Telegram channel a few minutes after the Freemen of Iraq posted its message, it asserts that, "Israel will cease to exist and we will pray together in Jerusalem if Allah wills it."[10]


[1] Telegram, August 5, 2022.

[2] Twitter, August 5, 2022.

[3] Twitter, August 5, 2022.

[4] Ashura is the tenth day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar, when Shi'ites mark the death of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the Battle of Karbala.

[5] Telegram, August 6, 2022.

[6] August 6, 2022.

[8] Telegram, August 5, 2022.

[10] Telegram, August 5, 2022.

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