A rocket assault on southern Israel by an Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist faction in the Gaza Strip is the latest reminder of the Islamic Republic’s long reach, and the ability of Iran’s armed proxies to destabilize multiple parts of the Middle East.
The rocket attack, which targeted southern Israeli villages at the end of October, sent civilians fleeing for cover, and was conducted by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second largest armed organization in Gaza. PIJ receives funding from Tehran, and pledges full ideological allegiance to Iran’s radical Shi’ite regime – the only Sunni Palestinian organization to do so.
The Israeli air force struck nearly 100 targets in Gaza in retaliation. The attack was something both Iran and the PIJ leadership at its Damascus, Syria, headquarters wanted, Israeli officials said.
PIJ claimed the attack was a response to the deaths of five Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces in weekly Friday border disturbances. But it appears more likely that PIJ used the incident as an opportunity to transmit a warning about its ability – and the ability of its sponsor, Iran – to plunge Israel and Gaza into war.
PIJ sent this warning just as Egypt was mediating between Israel and Hamas to create a long-term truce arrangement in Gaza.