The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group suggested Friday it could attack Israel if a war breaks out between the United States and Iran.
Tensions have spiked recently between the US and Iran amid the deepening impact of sanctions tied to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 international deal meant to curb the Iranian nuclear program.
Since the deployment to the Persian Gulf last month of an American aircraft carrier strike group, the US has accused Iran of orchestrating attacks on tankers sailing in the area, raising concerns over the possibility of a military conflict in the region.
Iran also downed a US military drone last week it said was in its airspace. The US has denied that claim, saying the drone was in international skies, and Trump ultimately decided against launching retaliatory strikes.
“Our action against Israel will remain limited to restituting Palestinian rights like the return of Palestinian refugees, getting Jerusalem back, freeing the detainees and liberating the occupied Palestinian territories,” Al-Monitor quoted an unnamed “prominent leader” in the Gaza-based PIJ as saying.
“But if Israel decides to ally with the US to engage in a military confrontation against Iran, we will take a different stand, which we will reveal in good time.”
The PIJ member said the terror group, which is the second-largest in the Strip, “will not abandon the country that supported it [Iran] in fighting Israel, if that party faces an attack.”
Hamas, meanwhile, indicated it was unlikely to intervene in the case of a war between Iran and the US.
“Iran and Hamas have an old political alliance based on Iranian bias to Palestinian rights, but this alliance does not entail Hamas engaging in a war for Iran’s sake,” Yahya Moussa, a member of the Gaza-ruling terror group, told Al-Monitor.
“No military confrontation between Israel and the resistance has ever had foreign goals,” he added. “We don’t have to be dragged into a war with Israel if Iran faces a military attack.”
Since the start of protests on the Gaza border last year, Israel has engaged in numerous rounds of fighting with Hamas and PIJ that have included heavy rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave and retaliatory Israeli strikes.
Last month, the leader of Hamas in Gaza thanked Iran for providing his terror group with rockets it used to strike deep into Israel.
“Had it not been for Iran, the resistance in Palestine would not have possessed its current capabilities,” Yahya Sinwar said at the time.
Israel has long charged Iran with trying to arm Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and maintains a blockade of the Strip to try and stop the import of sophisticated weapons systems.
Earlier this month, the chief of Israel’s Military Intelligence addressed the prospect of war in the Gaza Strip, saying that Hamas is not interested in a large-scale conflict. But he added that the PIJ had far fewer responsibilities toward Gaza residents and thus less to lose in a war, making it a far likelier instigator of violence.
“Hamas is quite deterred from war and is deeply interested in staying the course of a ceasefire in which they expect to receive certain concessions — and therefore they really don’t want a war,” he said.
“The Islamic Jihad has a high potential of volatility. This group does not have the duties of a sovereign and so there is a potential for it to initiate [war],” Maj Gen. Tamir Hayman said.
Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group in Lebanon, has also indicated it could get involved if there is a war between the US and Iran.