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Iran hosts Palestinian terror leaders, vows to continue fighting Israel

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian leaders meet with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran/Released)
January 04, 2019

After the U.S. announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan, Iranian leaders were spotted meeting with Palestinian terror leaders.

Iran has previously been declared a state sponsor of terrorism, but the latest hosting of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group reinforces Iran’s opposition to Israel, and indicates its support of terror groups aligned with that mission, The Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group is designated as a terror group by the U.S. State Department, and has been sanctioned over their use of Iranian funds to carry out terror attacks.

U.S. officials who monitored activity between the group and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the meeting could indicate that they’re plotting new attacks against Israel.

“One does not have to wonder what was talked about in the meeting between Iranian foreign minister Zarif and the head of Islamic Jihad—nothing good,” one senior official told the Free Beacon. “This meeting between a state sponsor of terror and terrorists likely revolved on how to continue to undermine peace efforts and sow greater instability in the region.”

The group’s leaders also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who declared, “The jihad of the Palestinians must continue until the Zionist enemy [surrenders] to the rights of the Palestinian nation,” according to an official Iranian government statement.

“Despite the Madrid and Oslo [peace] meetings and agreements, the Israelis have never accepted the rights of the Palestinians and therefore, the only way is to fight and resist,” Rouhani said.

“The entire peoples of the region must consider the Zionist Regime not just the enemy of the Palestinian nation, but also the enemy of the entire region,” he added.

The Anti-Defamation League described PIJ as “a radical Islamic extremist organization inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979” with the goal of destroying Israel. The group is the second largest terror group in Gaza and is “one of the perpetrators of rocket attacks against civilian targets in southern Israel.”

In September, the PIJ group appointed a new leader, Ziad al-Nakhalah, who was a founding member of the group and has been designated as a “Global Terrorist” by the U.S. State Department since 2014, the Associated Press reported.

Al-Nakhala is known for his anti-Israel views and his calls for attacks on Israel.

With additional Iranian funding and an anti-Israel leader in place, PIJ’s latest meeting could indeed signal a new wave of attacks on Israel.

Further, the meetings are a violation of U.S. sanctions. The U.S. could inflict additional repercussions on Iran in light of these violations.

Iran and PIJ have worked together on terror attacks before, as recently as October. Then, Israel accused Iran of directing the rocket attacks conducted by PIJ from Gaza.

After PIJ claimed responsibility for the attacks in southern Israel, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Johnathan Conricus said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force had ordered PIJ to carry out the rocket strikes, The New York Times reported.

PIJ spokesman Daoud Shehab denied the allegations, asserting that the group had acted in retaliation for Palestinians killed by Israel.

PIJ often coordinates with the terror group Hamas, but analysts say that the group may be attempting to assert itself as an independent group distinct from Hamas’ decisions.