Fatah’s armed wing in Gaza asks Iran for money to fight Israel

In televised fundraising effort earlier this summer, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fighter displayed what was said to be tunnel into Israel

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade gunman shows off a new tunnel into Israel during a program aired on Iranian and Palestinian TV in June 2015. (screen capture: YouTube)
An al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade gunman shows off a new tunnel into Israel during a program aired on Iranian and Palestinian TV in June 2015. (screen capture: YouTube)

The armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in Gaza asked Iran for money to battle Israel earlier this summer, and unveiled what it said was a new cross-border tunnel into the Jewish state during a televised appeal to Tehran.

The footage, which aired on Iran’s state-owned Al-Alam channel earlier this summer, featured an interview with a masked fighter from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, who showcased what he claimed was a newly built, 3.5 km (2 miles) tunnel ready for a next round of hostilities with Israel.

“We spend all our time trying to get money to fulfill our duty concerning our occupied lands and liberate them from the Zionist entity,” the militant said according to a translation released Tuesday by the Palestinian Media Watch watchdog group.

“This is why we are asking [for money]… especially [from] Iran, which is a known long-time supporter of the resistance and the Palestinian cause,” he said.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades has been designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, the EU, and other countries.

The television crew descended into the cross-border tunnel to “see what the Martyrs’ Brigades [are] preparing for this occupation,” and were greeted by a dozen or so masked and armed militants.

“This tunnel is approximately 3.5 km long and crosses the border between the Gaza Strip and the Zionist enemy. There are tunnels inside [Gaza] through which Jihad fighters pass during war,” the fighter explained.

Attack tunnels extending into Israeli territory prompted an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, which began in July 2014 and lasted for 50 days.

Destroying the tunnel threat was one of Israel’s goals during the summer’s military campaign, which saw more than 2,100 people killed in Gaza and tens of thousands left homeless, according to Palestinian and UN tallies, and 72 people killed in Israel. (Israel says almost half of the Gaza fatalities were combatants and blames Hamas for all civilian deaths since it emplaced its war machine in residential areas.) Eleven Israeli soldiers were killed inside Israel by Hamas gunmen emerging from the cross-border tunnels.

The fundraising effort aired on both Iranian and Palestinian television on June 29, and was translated and posted online by the Israel-based watchdog on Tuesday — days after reports emerged that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to visit Tehran in the coming months.

A Palestinian official told the Chinese Xinhua news agency last week that the diplomatic visit aimed at strengthening PA ties with the Islamic Republic.

Elhanan Miller and Daniel Bernstein contributed to this report.

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