Iran has been encouraging the senior leadership of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), whose members are based in Damascus and Beirut, to instruct the terror faction’s Gazan rocket squads to keep firing at Israel, the Israel Defense Forces stated on Thursday.
“PIJ in Gaza does not make the agenda,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesman, told journalists. Instead, its leaders are “living in Beirut and Damascus in expensive hotels and driving Mercedes [on] the Iranian payroll,” as Tehran calls the shots.
Ziad Nakleh, secretary general of the PIJ, who lives in Damascus often travels to Beirut.
“Iran pushes them to tell PIJ in Gaza to keep firing. It’s good for Iran, and in Iran’s interest” said Hagari, to keep Gaza in conflict and to distract Israel.
Meanwhile, Iran is hijacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and sending advanced weapons to its radical proxies across the Middle East in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere, the spokesman stated.
Hagari said the IDF is reviewing why the Iron Dome air-defense system failed to intercept the 6 p.m. rocket attack that struck a residential building in Rehovot on Thursday, south of Tel Aviv, killing a civilian and injuring several others.
“The defense is not hermetic, and we are in [a] war,” he said.
‘We have targeted Ali Ghali’
That death marks the conflict’s first Israeli casualty. Some 1.5 million Israelis in southern and central Israel have been under waves of PIJ rocket attacks in recent days after nearly 600 projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip since May 9.
Of those, said Hagari, 25% fall in Gaza itself, some with deadly consequences for Palestinians. Failed rockets killed four people, including two children.
Hagari described the Sisyphean task of Israeli military planners monitoring PIJ rocket commanders, who surround themselves with human shields, including their families, while issuing instructions to squads to fire on Israel.
“We have targeted Ali Ghali. He was killed in an apartment in Khan Younis, plus two PIJ members. There were no noncombatants,” Hagari said of the former PIJ rocket-launching force commander Israel killed on May 10.
“We hit squads putting launchers in the fields. We hit rocket launchers. One of our planes that was attacking launchers in the field stopped the attack after seeing two children in the field,” he stated.
Of Thursday’s IDF strike that killed Amed Abu-Deka, Hagari said the deputy commander of PIJ’s rocket force was in an apartment with his wife and four children, dissuading the IDF from striking at that time.
Israel held off despite his having orchestrated the firing of some 500 rockets this week at Israeli civilians.