In a bullet-scarred edifice within Jenin, two combatants hailing from Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed militant faction, jubilated over what they hailed as a triumph for Palestinians against a significant Israeli operation in the West Bank.
Israeli commanders affirmed their two-day venture in Jenin last month effectively disrupted arms caches and dismantled infrastructural support for Iranian-funded combatants.
These fighters exploited a densely populated refugee camp, housing thousands in an area smaller than half a square kilometer, as a launchpad for assaults targeting Israelis.
Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s National Security Adviser, articulated on August 7th that Iran aimed to encircle Israel through proxies like Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
While acknowledging their financial ties to Iran, the fighters insisted their struggle was rooted in local grievances over Israeli occupation, eschewing broader geopolitical concerns, as discerned through numerous interactions with fighters and sympathizers in Jenin.
One of the Islamic Jihad fighters, identifying himself as Abu Salah, articulated, “We are sons of Jenin.” Cloaked in black athletic attire, the 36-year-old fighter conveyed that their circumstances left them no recourse but to engage in conflict.
“We are surrounded and under siege. We have no choice but to fight,” he stated amid the remnants of the Israeli incursion.
Islamic Jihad is pledged to dismantling Israel in favor of an Islamic state. The fighter clarified that while their goal resonates with Islamic Jihad’s agenda, their drive is intrinsically tied to Jenin.
The West Bank, a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since its capture by Israel in 1967, has experienced prolonged turmoil over the past year.
This period witnessed fatalities on both sides – Palestinians, including fighters and civilians, and Israelis in various attacks.
Israeli authorities persistently accuse Iran of funding West Bank militant groups, an element of Iran’s multifaceted campaign involving global attacks on Israelis, Hezbollah funding, and nuclear ambitions.
Palestinians often perceive these allegations as an attempt to divert attention from Israel’s West Bank occupation and contentious settlement expansions.
Jenin, historically a bastion of Palestinian resistance, serves as a nexus for Iranian security officials, shadowy financiers, and competing Palestinian factions.
Despite nominal Palestinian Authority control, the area is increasingly anarchic, with the PA relegated to protesting Israeli incursions.
Around 25% of families in Jenin reportedly affiliate with Islamic Jihad, which draws approximately 90% of its funding from Iran, amounting to tens of millions annually.
However, Iran’s control over funds is somewhat limited, relying on smugglers and criminal networks for distribution.
Survey results demonstrate overwhelming Palestinian support for armed groups amidst escalating Israeli raids and settler attacks.
As Gulf states enhance relations with Israel, traditional funding sources for Palestinian causes diminish, creating an opening that Iran seeks to exploit.
The funds reach these militant groups through convoluted mechanisms involving legitimate businesses and inflated valuations.
A significant portion is siphoned off to trusted intermediaries who then funnel the money to the militants.
For the youth in the camps, the origin of the funds is of minor concern, driven by their devotion to the cause and the memory of martyred fighters.
Amidst a precarious economic environment, they often earn meager salaries while the weaponry they employ is a combination of stolen Israeli arms, smuggled ordnance, and locally fabricated weapons.
The prevailing sentiment among fighters remains consistent: the source of the funds matters little in the context of their struggle.