Iranian-Supported Terror Group Reportedly Started in the West Bank
In June 2014, Al Monitor reported:
Those attending the funeral of Palestinian resistance member Nizar Issa, who was killed during an explosion at a resistance training center in the northern Gaza Strip on May 25, were surprised when Hisham Salem, a well-known figure in Gaza, declared the start of a new resistance movement in Palestine and proclaimed Issa as the first martyr in the ranks of this movement.
The new movement is called “Al-Sabirin [The Patient] for the Victory of Palestine,” or “Hosn” by its Arabic acronym. Its flag looks a lot like that of Lebanon’s Hezbollah in form and color — the reason why Salem’s local opponents accused him of promoting a Shiite current — which raises significant concerns for Palestinians about an outbreak of sectarian strife in the Gaza Strip and turning Gaza into a second Iraq.
After splitting from the PIJ, Salem and his followers’ first move was to establish a charity named al Baqiyat al Salihat (“the enduring good deeds”); by spring 2014, they proclaimed the birth of the al Sabirin movement. It is not clear at this point how many members have joined the new militia and how militarily active it is.
Rumors among Islamist circles in Gaza claim that Salem receives an annual budget of $10 million from Iran, typically smuggled in suitcases through the tunnels along the border with Egypt. Al Sabirin allegedly distributes a portion of these funds to families of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. And it has spent relatively significant sums to commemorate, through a documentary, one of its members, Musaab al-Kheir Salah Sakkafi, whom they consider a martyr. He was killed during Israel’s Protective Edge operation in July 2014 after a rocket he was trying to fire into Israel exploded during launch.
While al-Sabirin has had a rocky start in Gaza, it apparently has started its militant operations, as reported last month:
The Al-Sabirin movement took responsibility Friday for detonating an explosive device two days earlier that targeted an Israeli army patrol near Khan Younis, along Israel’s border with the southern Gaza Strip.
The movement, a Palestinian Shiite group funded by Iran and given protection by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, has in the recent past also taken responsibility for two other attacks against Israeli troops.
Now there are reports that the Iranian proxy group is beginning operations in the West Bank.
Leader Hisham Salem says that his group has recruited members in the West Bank which he intends to provide with military and financial support, claiming to want unity among all Palestinian factions.
This is all very believable. Iran’s Supreme Leader has explicitly called for an armed uprising in the West Bank, even before the current knife and car ramming attacks.
Al-Sabirin seems to be using the time-honored Islamist model of starting off by creating charities and using them as a front to bring money in for weapons.
While there will be resistance among the Sunni-dominated Palestinian Arabs, a well-funded Iranian proxy can easily attract members and weapons. Given that Iran has been reportedly withholding funds from Hamas and possibly Islamic Jihad, forcing those groups to cut salaries and operations, would-be terrorists will be attracted to a group that can pay them.