Islamic Jihad Leader: Israel Attack Coordinated With Hamas; Despite Truce, Threatens ‘Beyond’ Tel Aviv
by Joshua Levitt
Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, said this week’s barrage of 130 rockets launched at southern Israel was coordinated with Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, and attacking “beyond” Tel Aviv, remains in their sights.
In a statement on Thursday, Islamic Jihad’s Al Quds Brigade said the onslaught against Israel was in response to the Israel Defense Force’s targeting of three Al-Quds operatives on Tuesday, which, itself, was in response to Islamic Jihad mortars hitting Israel. On Tuesday, the IDF said an Israeli Air Force fighter jet responded to a mortar shell fired from Gaza by Islamic Jihad soldiers at IDF infantry and engineers, and confirmed the direct hit against the terrorists who launched the shelling.
In a rare interview, Shallah told Al-Monitor, in Tehran, that Islamic Jihad was contacted by Egypt, who offered to mediate to end the shelling, but Shellah denied a 2012 truce with Israel had been broken.
“We told them we are committed to the last truce as far as the Israelis are committed, so it’s as much restoring the last truce as signing a new one,” Shallah said. “During the past two years we were committed to the truce, but the Israeli occupation continued to break it. The Palestinian factions observed during these years maximum restraint, but after the last attack by Israel, we felt that they are miscalculating our response. Israel might have started thinking that we’re afraid or that all the equations set during the previous wars are void due to the situation in the region. We wanted to tell the enemy and the friend not to misunderstand us. It’s true that we signed a truce in 2012 — a truce, not a surrender document.”
Shellah said that, despite an apparent denial by Hamas, the shelling was coordinated — “all that we do is coordinated,” he said.
“We both coordinate all our moves together, in war and peace,” Shellah said. “I’ll reveal something: Just days ago, I was the guest [in Qatar] of Abou Alwalid [Khaled Meshaal], and we held very detailed meetings to discuss almost everything, but mainly the resistance and the situation in Gaza, so whoever says there’s no coordination knows nothing. We agreed together on retaliating if there’s any attack.”
Asked if Islamic Jihad would escalate its attack to target Tel Aviv, Shellah said, “Our experience proves that our performance from one war to another is getting better. If in 2012 we hit Tel Aviv, I think the enemy can imagine what could be beyond Tel Aviv.”
Asked if this week’s shelling was requested by its regional partners, Shellah blamed Israel and said its war against the Jewish state would continue until “until we see the Dome of the Rock, Jaffa and Haifa.”
“It’s a shame to hear that some people think this way,” Shellah said. “Who started the war? Israel started the war.”
“Unfortunately, our war with Israel is becoming more and more limited to Gaza,” he said. “There’s an occupied Palestine that we have to liberate, and we won’t give up this objective. We always take this into consideration, but we do act in accordance with the circumstances in the region and our capabilities. Our resistance will continue as far as there is Israel, as far as there is occupation, the daily aggression against our people. Let me make it clear: Our arms are only for Palestine. Our arms aren’t for rent. We will continue until we see the Dome of the Rock, Jaffa and Haifa.”
He also lambasted attempts to negotiate with Israel or seek any lasting military peace.
Shellah said Islamic Jihad refused the path of negotiation, “Because those who chose the negotiation path gained nothing. We all lost because of them.”
“When the Oslo agreement was signed, there were 180,000 Israeli settlers. After Oslo, we have around 560,000. The West Bank today is full of settlements, Israeli checkpoints. [There are] detentions. Jerusalem is also suffering, especially with the Judaization process that saw many of its indigenous people thrown out of the city.”
“Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority [PA], in response, is banning the resistance, though there’s great potential, and our people are ready to rise up once again. Why are they committed to security coordination with Israel? What does security coordination mean? It means that the PA is working for Israel.”
On the question that has dominated the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Shallah said that was tantamount to admitting defeat.
“Declaring Israel a Jewish state means that they are the owners of the land and that for 1,400 years we were wrong, that we historically are invaders not only as Arabs but also Canaanites,” he said. “It means that all our wars were baseless.”
“Even our martyrs — [late Palestinian leader] Yasser Arafat, [Hamas co-founder] Ahmad Yassin, [Palestinian Islamic Jihad founder] Fathi Shaqaqi — would all be criminals and not freedom fighters,” he said.
“If we make such a compromise, we will soon see 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Palestine crossing the river to Jordan. This will be the first step toward dividing the whole region into tiny sectarian states. For decades, we criticized and attacked the Sykes-Picot Agreement. If this happens, then we’ll write poetry in praise of Sykes-Picot. Syria is a clear example.”
On the war in Syria, where he lived previously and where the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is based, Shallah said, “If the war continues this way, it might continue for another 100 years. This happened before in Europe between England and France. They fought for 116 years. It might happen here, too. Many other sectarian and religious wars lasted for hundreds of years. There’s no solution for Syria but politics, and here, everyone should be represented.”
He then said, “I call on those asking [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas to make painful compromises to Israel, why don’t you make some painful compromises and rid the Syrian people of this war?”
In the FBI’s dossier on Shallah, it says he earned a PhD in Banking and Economics from a university in England, and has worked as a university professor in several countries and has ties to Tampa, Florida; the Gaza Strip; Egypt; and London, England.
The FBI, which has a $5 million bounty for his capture, said Shellah, one of the founding members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its Secretary General, is “wanted for conspiracy to conduct the affairs of the designated international terrorist organization known as the ‘Palestinian Islamic Jihad’ through a pattern of racketeering activities such as bombings, murders, extortions, and money laundering.”
He was listed as a “Specially Designated Terrorist” under United States law on November 27, 1995. Shallah was indicted in a 53 count indictment in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa, Florida.