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August 7, 2018 5:12 pm

Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leaders Meet With Russian Officials in Moscow, Drawing Israeli Concern

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Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov (second from right) with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders. Photo: PIJ.

Officials from Gaza Strip-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) met on Tuesday with Russian officials in Moscow, drawing concern from Israel.

A delegation led by PIJ Deputy Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhla and other senior leaders, including Mohammed al-Hindi and Anwar Abu Taha, first arrived in the Russian capital on Monday.

During an “in-depth and lengthy” meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov the following day, PIJ officials emphasized the importance of Palestinian national reconciliation and their opposition to the Trump administration’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, the Islamist group shared in a statement.

Bogdanov — who also serves as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East and Africa — said in turn that Palestinian factions need to unify under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization in order to establish an independent state, according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

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Designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and more than 30 other countries, PIJ has previously expressed opposition to peace negotiations with Israel and called for its replacement with an Islamic Arab state. It regularly frames its mission as a religious struggle against Jews.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry told The Algemeiner following PIJ’s talks in Russia that Israel was “opposed to any meetings with people or organizations advocating Israel’s destruction.”

“This does not serve the cause of peace, on the contrary,” Emmanuel Nahshon said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

PIJ receives arms, funds, and other support from Iran, a strategic ally of Moscow in the ongoing Syrian civil war. The group carried out what has been described as the first Palestinian suicide operation in 1989, which it followed with multiple rocket attacks, shootings, and bombings — including two attacks at a Tel Aviv restaurant that killed and injured more than 110 people in 2006. It is considered to be the second-largest armed faction in Gaza after Hamas, which has ruled the coastal enclave since ousting Fatah in 2007.

The PIJ officials’ visit to Moscow comes less than two months after a delegation of Hamas leaders traveled to the Russian capital, where they expressed their opposition to US President Donald Trump’s potential peace plan in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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