Palestinian Islamic Jihad chief Ziad Nakhaleh said in an interview released Saturday that his Iran-backed terror group was working to establish cells of fighters throughout the West Bank.
Speaking with Iranian Arabic-language newspaper Al-Vefagh, Nakhaleh said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — with whom he met two weeks ago in Tehran — was supportive of “moving from a state of calm to one of resistance” in the West Bank, while reiterating his support for arming Palestinians there.
“The most important thing is that we strengthen the resistance,” the Damascus-based Nakhaleh said.
“During our visit to Iran, during the meeting with His Eminence, the Leader, His Eminence reaffirmed [his desire] to advance arming the West Bank and resistance action in the West Bank.”
According to Nakhaleh, Islamic Jihad has set up “fighting battalions” in Palestinian cities across the West Bank and was working on manufacturing explosives and distributing arms, including to gunmen linked to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah party.
Nakhaleh’s comment on explosives came after his terror organization claimed responsibility for a massive roadside bomb that wounded eight Israeli soldiers during intense clashes in Jenin last month.
While thanking the Islamic Republic for its support, Nakhaleh sought to play down the scale of Iranian backing that Palestinian Islamic Jihad receives, saying it should not be “exaggerated.”
“There is security-military assistance, and this is the most important thing,” he said.
He also predicted Israel’s eventual demise, the timing of which depended “on our willingness and our ability to resist.”
The interview came amid elevated Israeli-Palestinian tensions over the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Since the start of 2023, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 134 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.
There has also been a noted rise in settler violence toward Palestinians in recent months, especially in the wake of a deadly terror attack last month in the West Bank.