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Islamic Jihad: Iran can defend itself

Oct. 12, 2012 10:09 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 14, 2012 10:54 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel is trying to bring chaos to the region by threatening war on Iran but the Islamic republic can defend itself, Islamic Jihad's representative to Yemen said Thursday.

Ahmad Barakeh said Israel was trying to "blow up" the whole region, backed by the US. Islamic Jihad opposes any attack on Iran as it rejects any attacks on Arab or Islamic countries, but Iran is "able to defend itself," Barakeh told Ma'an.

Iran supports Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions without imposing any conditions, and has done so for many years, said Barakeh, who arrived in the Gaza Strip in late September.

"We receive support as other Palestinian factions do because Iran took it upon itself to support the Palestinian cause."

Barakat denied reports of divisions within Islamic Jihad, and pointed to the movement's recent anniversary celebrations as evidence of its growing support. Tens of thousands of supporters rallied in Gaza City to mark Islamic Jihad's 31st anniversary last week.

Joint operations

Senior Islamic Jihad leader Ahmad al-Mudallal said Wednesday that coordination between the movement and Hamas was at its best both politically and militarily.

After Israel bombed southern Gaza on Sunday, Islamic Jihad's military wing the al-Quds Brigades joined forces with Hamas' armed wing the al-Qassam Brigades to fire rockets at Israeli military sites.

Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubeida said the joint operation demonstrated the "high level of coordination" between the factions.

Barakeh, Islamic Jihad's bureau chief in Yemen, said the cooperation was successful and offered hope for the establishment of joint operations between all factions, noting that this would require setting out an agreement between all militant groups.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas have discussed merging in the past. Barakeh said talks to integrate were ongoing and the parties were discussing common ground between them.

Islamic Jihad has no conditions to work with any factions, especially those with a common ideology, Barakeh said, adding that he hoped all factions would eventually come together as one body to liberate Palestine.

The movement is trying to arrange a meeting for all factions in Gaza to unite against Israeli aggression and to lead the next stage in the Arab world, Barakeh said.

Palestinians cannot confront Israel while they are divided, he said, adding that Islamic Jihad was working to reconcile Hamas and Fatah. He said Israel was trying to thwart reconciliation between the rival parties.

The Islamic Jihad leader said the latest escalation in airstrikes on Gaza was part of Israel's political program, which he said also included killing, ethnic cleansing, deportation, arrests and psychological intimidation.

Asked about Islamic Jihad's position on President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for Palestine to become a non-member state in the United Nations, Barakat said the movement supported any initiative for Palestinians' rights, politically or militarily, so long as it didn't detract from the Palestinian cause.

"We appreciate what Abbas is doing in order to gain Palestine's place at the UN," he said.

Presence in Syria

Islamic Jihad's position on Syria, Barakat said, is that the movement will not intervene in the country's 19-month uprising but hoped it could be resolved through dialogue.

The existence of Islamic Jihad in Syria is not linked to a specific regime, but to the presence of Palestinian refugees in the country, he added.

"We feel the pain of the blood flowing in Syria and we hope that the Syrian issue is resolved without foreign intervention in the interest of everyone to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people."

Barakat said the movement retained offices in Syria. It also has bureaus in Iran, Lebanon and Yemen as well as grassroots support in other countries.

Hamas abandoned its offices in Damascus and faced a backlash for criticizing its former ally President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on protests against his rule.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are Sunni Muslim movements, and the Syrian protesters and rebels fighting Assad are also mostly Sunni Muslims.

Assad has historically been friendly to Palestinian resistance groups, as has his strongest ally Iran, which has also funded Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
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