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October 29, 2015

Journalist Profiles New Iranian-backed Palestinian Terror Group

Since its creation in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been, according to U.S. government listings, a leading state-sponsor of terrorism. Among its surrogates and/or recipients of Iranian largesse are the Lebanese-based Shi’ite Hezbollah and Palestinian Arab groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). All three are U.S.-designated terror groups. Tehran is now directing support to a new Palestinian terror group operating in the Gaza Strip, called Harakat as-Sabeereen Nasran il-Filastin (The Movement of the Patient Ones for the Liberation of Palestine), also known as Hesn or al-Sabireen.

Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh profiles Tehran’s latest proxy.

Al-Sabireen is led by Hisham Salem, a former commander of PIJ’s Quds (Jerusalem) Force Brigades in Gaza. Salem also headed a Shi’ite charity based in Jabaliya refugee district also in Gaza. The self-described goal of his group is to “eliminate the Zionist entity.�

Initial hints of al-Sabireen’s emergence appeared in May 2014, according to a June 18, 2014 report by Jonathan Schanzer and Grant Rumley of the D.C.-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (“Iran Spawns New Jihadist Group in Gaza,� The Long War Journal). Toameh notes the terror group has recently drawn increased attention when one of its leaders, Ahmed Sharif Al-Sarhi, was killed by Israeli Defense Forces near the Gaza Strip on Oct. 20, 2015 (“Pro-Iran group in Gaza says IDF killed one of its members,� The Times of Israel, Oct. 20, 2015).

Al-Sabireen was established following tensions between the Islamic Republic and its beneficiaries Hamas and PIJ, who refused to publicly support another ally of Tehran: Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad, currently engaged in a bloody civil war. For this lack of support, Hamas and PIJ leaders were kicked out of Syria and Iran has decreased its funding.

Toameh writes that “most of the Al-Sabireen terrorists� are “disgruntled� former members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Salem’s group is thought to have 400 followers so far in the Gaza Strip. The organization’s symbols are similar to that of fellow Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah, a fist gripping a Kalashnikov assault rifle featured prominently in the center of the al-Sabireen flag.

Each al-Sabireen member receives a monthly salary of $250-$300 in U.S. dollars, while high-ranking officials receive more than twice as much.

Iranian support goes beyond funding salaries. Tehran is thought to have supplied Salem and his group with Grad and Fajr missiles that can reach Tel Aviv, from the Strip, a distance of about 35 miles. Other weaponry also has been presented to al-Sabireen, including long-range sniper rifles.

Toameh reports that Salem’s “activities and rhetoric� worry PIJ and Hamas, both of whom fear that al-Sabireen is “beginning to attract many of their followers.�

Hamas and PIJ are not the only Palestinian Arab groups losing members to the new terror group. Toameh says that the group is “believed to have succeeded in recruiting scores of militiamen belonging to [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in the Gaza Strip. These militiamen have gone to the Iranian-backed group mostly for financial considerations.�

Salem was stabbed and lightly wounded by unidentified assailants thought to belong to either Hamas or PIJ shortly after giving an interview to a newspaper in the northern Gaza Strip two weeks ago. The terrorist leader and his group have been accused by Hamas of helping the Islamic Republic spread Shiite Islam within the largely Sunni Muslim Gaza Strip. In the past, Hamas has leveled similar charges against Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Hamas vs. Fatah, Jonathan Schanzer, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

FDD’s Schanzer and Rumley noted that al-Sabireen’s “very existence is a sign that Iran is not prepared to allow for quiet in the Palestinian territories…This serves only to underscore Iran’s goals in the Palestinian arena…Iran appears intent to push the Palestinians into conflict with Israel—or even themselves.�

Posted by SD at October 29, 2015 02:57 PM


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