Middle East

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah meets with Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met with Ziyad al-Nakhalah of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Lebanon today. The two discussed the recent war between the Gaza-based Palestinian armed group and Israel. 

“Sayyed Nasrallah and Nakhale tackled the latest developments in Gaza and West Bank, and assessed the battle which took place with the Israeli enemy on all levels: military, politics and media,” Hezbollah said in a statement, according to its media channel Al-Manar

The two also discussed unspecified regional issues, as well as the “expected roles” by different members of the “resistance,” according to the outlet. 

Though Palestinian Islamic Jihad primarily operates in the Gaza Strip, Nakhalah is reportedly based in Beirut. 

Why it matters: Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fought briefly earlier this month before agreeing to a ceasefire. Hamas, which is the largest political and armed group in Gaza, notably did not participate in the fighting. 

Friendly relations between Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are not new. The two have been allies since the 1990s, in part due to their shared support from the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the DC-based Wilson Center. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is more directly aligned with Iran than the main Gaza-based armed group — Hamas.

The meeting between Nasrallah and Nakhalah came as Iran is assessing the recent Israel-Palestinian Islamic Jihad conflict. This month, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), called for “unity” among all Palestinian movements. He also suggested more frequent attacks on Israel. 

“The struggle is changing from an intermittent to a continuous movement, this is the first characteristic,” he said, according to Tehran Times. “In the past, you witnessed conflicts and battles with long time intervals, and you did not see that continuity in today’s struggle.”

Relatedly, Palestinian Islamic Jihad dubbed the recent conflict “Unity of Battlefields.”

One analyst for the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis said the timing of the meeting after the recent violence is notable. 

“I expect that Hezbollah and Iran are looking to reassure Palestinian Islamic Jihad after Breaking Dawn,” Sean Durns told Al-Monitor, referencing the Israeli name for the recent operation in Gaza. “Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iran itself are looking to continue to expand their influence in the West Bank and to enhance cooperation, including with other Iranian proxies.” 

Nakhalah notably visited Tehran at the start of the recent Gaza conflict. 

Hezbollah has advised Palestinian Islamic Jihad on strategy before. In the early 2000s, Hezbollah encouraged the group to focus its attacks on Israel on more strategic locations, according to the RAND Corporation.

Know more: Hezbollah has its own tensions with Israel as of late. Last month, Hezbollah flew drones towards an Israeli gas field. Israel also shot down a Hezbollah glider that entered Israeli airspace. 

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