Primary goals: militant struggle against the state of Israel. Annihilation of Israel and establishment of an Islamic-Palestinian state from the sea to the Jordan River.
Area of activity: Gaza strip and the West Bank.
Strength: 1,000 members.
Primary funding sources: donations and aid money, mostly from Iran.
Up to 2 years ago, the Islamic Jihad was facing a severe economic crisis, as one of their senior officials expressed it “the most severe economic crisis in the history of the organization,” which was founded in 1979 as a branch of the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood movement. The Jihadi organization’s sources of funding have since dried up and its pockets emptied.
For months, none of the terror group’s operatives were paid – not to members of the political arm, nor those operating social institutions, media, nor even those of the “holy Al-Quds brigades’ – the military branch of the terror organization. With no money coming in, the leaders were forced to downsize and merge public programs, budgets were cut, activities disabled and many operatives fired and, as part of the austerity measures, they even closed the television station ‘Falestine al-Youm’.
Islamic Jihad at the Brink of Bankruptcy
The long closure of the Gaza blockade has taken its toll. The last round of fighting with Israel left the strip in ruins, with many headquarters and structures of the terror organization destroyed, and much infrastructure damaged. Together with the blockade of the strip which has been ongoing for 8 years, a hard reality has taken shape; a severe lack of water, electricity, goods and raw materials led to a sharp increase in prices and general expenses. On the other hand, the pressure on the Egyptian side has begun to tighten. The El-Sisi regime’s effective moves to close the smuggling routes at Rafah, cut off one of the easier available sources of funding and blocked basic means of the arms smuggling enriching the organization’s arsenal.
But all of this was dwarfed by the hardest blow which, according to many, brought the Islamic Jihad to the brink of bankruptcy and to its lowest point in its many years of activity. In a political crisis with their Iranian patron, close ally and nearly exclusive sponsor, the latter threatened to cut the oxygen flow to the Jihadist organization.
At that time the coalition forces of the region’s Sunni states (led by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Sunni rival), began a large-scale military operation against the Houthis in Yemen. While the heads of the Islamic Jihad were determined to remain neutral, the Iranians demanded explicit support for the Shiite Houthis. When expression of support was not forthcoming, Tehran decided to drastically cut the funding flowing to the organization, which went into a violent tailspin.
Eventually the Islamic Jihad leaders gave in and surrendered to the dictates of Tehran, including a public “declaration of loyalty”. A delegation of senior officials headed by Ramadan Shalah, secretary general of the organization, was launched to end the tensions and to consult the Revolutionary Guard. During the meeting, Shalah thanked the Quds force commander (the elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard), Qasem Soleimani, for the ‘exclusive’ support of the Palestinian intifada. In what was described as a sweeping declaration of loyalty by the Islamic Jihad for Iran and unconditional acceptance of its demands, the organization’s secretary general criticized the ‘other Arab states’ that do not support the Palestinian uprising and declared that “Iran is the only country that supports the intifada and the families of the martyrs.”
Unsurprisingly, the reward soon followed. A short while after the meeting, the heads of the organization received an offer of reconciliation in the form of tens of millions of dollars. It is estimated that Islamic Jihad receives support from Iran of about $70 million a year and that Iran alone is responsible for supplying nearly 75% of the Palestinian terror organization’s entire budget.