The Al-Sabirin movement took responsibility Friday for detonating an explosive device two days earlier that targeted an Israeli army patrol near Khan Younis, along Israel’s border with the southern Gaza Strip.
The movement, a Palestinian Shiite group funded by Iran and given protection by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, has in the recent past also taken responsibility for two other attacks against Israeli troops.
No injuries or damage were reported on the Israeli side in Wednesday’s attack. Palestinian sources said at least one Palestinian farmer was shot and injured when IDF soldiers returned fire to the source of the blast.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that a 20-year-old man suffered moderate injuries to the leg and hand.
Israeli reports, however, said three Hamas fighters were injured in the firefight with Israeli troops.
Residents of nearby Israeli communities were urged to exercise caution following the incident.
Al-Sabirin (the name comes from the Arabic word for “patience”), a Hezbollah-style terror group, has begun recruiting an intended initial force of 400 fighters, a Channel 2 report last month said. Because it follows Shiite Islam — as does Iran and the Iranian proxy militia Hezbollah in Lebanon — it is having a difficult time gaining recruits among Gaza’s Sunni Muslims. Nonetheless, the report said, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is allocating funds to the nascent group, transferred through a charitable organization named after the founder of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Headed by a former Islamic Jihad leader named Hisham Salem, Al-Sabirin has fired rockets into Israel, and lost one fighter, named in the TV report as Ahmed al-Sirahi, in clashes with Israel forces at the Gaza border three months ago.
A rocket factory it established in Gaza was blown up during the summer 2014 war with Israel, and the two Gazans who were producing its rockets were killed, according to the report.
The symbol and flag of the group are very similar to those of Hezbollah, which in 2006 fought a major war against Israel, and which Israel today believes has an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets and precision missiles in south Lebanon ready for use against the Jewish state, should Iran give the word.
Iran’s drive to establish its own organization in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip began 19 months ago, the TV report said, and Tehran has now suspended all funding to Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad, in part because of their opposition to the Assad regime that Iran and Hezbollah are supporting in Syria.
Tehran is also channeling funds to woo recruits to the organization through the familiar path of philanthropy, the TV report said, citing school equipment and household goods purchased with Iranian money for needy Gazans. It showed school supplies in Gaza bearing the picture of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and cooling fans purchased, ironically, in Israel.
Wednesday’s incident was the second cross-border exchange with Gaza this week.
On Sunday night, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel. Hours later, Israeli aircraft struck the Gaza Strip. The IDF said it targeted two Hamas military posts in northern and central Gaza. There were no immediate reports of Palestinian casualties.
The IDF said it holds Hamas rulers responsible for any attacks emanating from the Strip.