Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday accused Iran of funding Palestinian Islamic Jihad to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year, a week after Israel fought a three-day battle with the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
PIJ launched 1,175 rockets and mortars at Israel between Friday and Sunday. According to the Israel Defense Forces, some 200 rockets of them fell short inside the Gaza Strip. In several cases, failed rocket launches killed Palestinian civilians.
“While the world watched ‘another escalation between Israel and Gaza,’ I stopped to emphasize: The Iranian ayatollahs are involved on this front. Islamic Jihad in Gaza is a violent Iranian proxy,” Gantz said, as he hosted his Cypriot counterpart at the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.
“Their leadership visits Iran and meets Iranian leaders frequently. Islamic Jihad has an open tab in Iran,” he said.
Throughout the round of fighting, the PIJ’s secretary general, Ziad Nakhaleh, was in Iran for meetings with the terror group’s main backers.
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During the battle, Gantz and military chief Aviv Kohavi threatened to act against the terror group’s leadership who are located abroad.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) and his Cypriot counterpart, Charalambos Petrides, meet at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, August 11, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
“Iran provides Islamic Jihad in Gaza with tens of millions of dollars per year,” Gantz said Thursday.
“Iran, via the IRGC, transfers know-how and attempts to smuggle materials to Gaza, which are then used to build weapons aimed at civilians,” he said.
“While quiet in the area was restored, we cannot rest. On the operational level — the State of Israel will maintain its freedom of action in all arenas,” he continued.
“As I have said in the past, our eyes and targets focus on anyone who threatens the security of our citizens, from Khan Younis to Tehran,” Gantz said.
“On the strategic level, Israel will continue to work with our partners in facing Iranian aggression, which harms security and stability everywhere, from the Israel-Gaza border, to the Mediterranean Sea, to the Gulf and beyond,” he said.
Thanking the Cypriot defense minister, Charalambos Petrides, for his country’s military cooperation with Israel, Gantz said, “In such challenging times, partnerships are crucial.”
Gantz said he was “pleased that our establishments have been working closely, and that our industrial cooperation has become a pillar not only of our bilateral relations, but also to regional security and stability.”
He added, “We also value the trilateral framework with Greece. It is an asset to the force build-up of the individual countries, as well as to wider regional security.”