Harakat al-Sabirin, an Iran-backed Palestinian jihadist organization, announced on Thursday that it had extended its operations from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Hisham Salim, the group's founder, said, “We have an armed branch whose goal is to wage war on the Israeli occupation everywhere…Within this framework we have members in the West Bank and Jerusalem who will soon receive financial and military support from us.” The group, whose name means "movement of the patient ones," has a flag that is nearly identical to that of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist organization in Lebanon, depicting an outstretched arm clutching a rifle that is formed by the Arabic letter alef. Salim said the organization is directly financed by Iran and when asked about whether he was on the side of Saudi Arabia or Iran with regard to their current crisis in relations, he unambiguously stated that the group stands with Iran.
Journalist Ehud Yaari reported in September that the group, which splintered from Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 2014, is alleged to receive “an annual budget of $10 million from Iran, typically smuggled in suitcases through the tunnels along the border with Egypt.” In addition, Times of Israel correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote in December, citing a Channel 2 report, that “Tehran is also channeling funds to woo recruits to the organization through the familiar path of philanthropy…school equipment and household goods [are] purchased with Iranian money for needy Gazans.” Some of the goods bore a photo of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The group’s publications have referred to the U.S. as “the source of superpower terrorism.” While Salim is careful to deny claims that he is Shiite, he has said in the past that “the road to the liberation of Palestine goes through Karbala,” a Shiite holy city in Iraq.
In December, al-Sabirin claimed responsibility for the detonation of an explosive device along the Israeli border with Gaza, which caused no injuries or damage.
The head of the Iranian armed forces called Tuesday’s seizure of two American naval vessels and their crews a “lesson” to members of Congress, Iran’s semi-official PressTV network reported on Wednesday.“We hope the incident in north of the Persian Gulf, which will not be probably the American forces’ last mistake in the region, will be a lesson to those seeking to sabotage [Iran’s nuclear agreement] at US Congress,” said Major General Hassan Firouzabadi.
Firouzabadi accused congressional critics of the nuclear deal with Iran of ignoring the best interests of the American people. He touted the incident as an example of U.S. “vulnerability” in the Persian Gulf and praised the vigilance of the Iranian military, which monitors U.S. activities in the region.
PressTV also quoted Admiral Ali Fadavi, the Navy chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who boasted of Iran’s efforts to keep American forces at bay during the incident. Fadavi, who said that the two boats entered waters near Iran’s Farsi Island due to problems with their navigation systems, claimed that while the IRGC naval forces seized the two vessels and their crews, “the US Navy and [a nearby] aircraft carrier resorted to unprofessional behavior as well as aerial and seaborne provocations in the area, which were deflected through the IRGC’s timely action.”
Fadavi’s language echoed a statement made by U.S. Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines after an Iranian ship fired rockets in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman at the end of December. “Firing weapons so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law,” Raines said following the incident.
Fadavi also boasted that the IRGC navy has “full control” over both the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz, through which most of the world’s oil is transported.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that Iran was holding two American crafts and their crews. The vessels and sailors were released on Wednesday, but there are growing concerns that Iran violated international law by arresting the personnel and broadcasting their images. (via TheTower.org)