Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat – The leadership of the Islamic Jihad movement has left Syria for Iran, but continues to maintain good relations with the Syrian regime, Informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
According to the sources, which spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, Ziyad Nakhalah, deputy secretary general of the Islamic Jihad, has been in Iran for weeks and only visited Syria recently to transport the body of Salim Hamadah, member of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Jihad, to Lebanon where he was buried in Sidon after he died in Syria from an undisclosed illness.
The sources also revealed that this is also the case with the movement’s secretary general, Ramadan Shallah, who is moving between the two countries, while spending most of his time in Iran. The Islamic Jihad leaders travel in and out of Syria with great freedom, unlike their counterparts in the Hamas movement whose ties with the Syrian regime soured, after its leader, Ismail Haniyah, declared his support for the Syrian people in a visit to Al-Azhar.
However, an official source in the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza denied that its officials have left Syria. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the movement cannot in these difficult circumstances be anywhere expect with its brothers in Syria.” The source added that the movement is carrying out relief programs for the Palestinian refugees in Syria, and that some officials have left Syria within the framework of work abroad, but that their departure was not permanent.
The source went on to say that, “relations between the Islamic Jihad and the Syrian government are excellent, unlike Hamas, which prefers to be based outside Syria.” Islamic Jihad is maintaining its relations with the Syrian and Iranian regimes, and has refrained from criticizing Al-Assad and from supporting the Syrian revolution, which is different from its stand towards the Egyptian, Tunisian, and Libyan revolutions.
The sources emphasized that the departure of the movement’s leaders to Iran does not mean a change in its stand towards the Syrian regime; however, the political circumstances in Damascus has forced the Islamic Jihad leaders to work from another base.
Syria has been a strong advocate of the Islamic Jihad movement and has hosted it for many years, as was the case with the Hamas movement; however, Hamas’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which stand as an arch enemy of the Baathist Syrian regime, has expedited the fall-out between Damascus and Hamas after the latter refused to openly support Assad and adopted a biased stand toward the Syrian revolution. Syria also constitutes an important passageway for the Islamic Jihad leaders and elements that travel from Gaza to Teheran for different political and logistical reasons.
According to the sources, dozens of civilians and military individuals from Gaza are currently stranded in Syria after participating in conferences in Iran.
A Palestinian female delegation affiliated with the Islamic Jihad attended a conference on women and the Islamic awakening in Iran, which concluded a few days ago and in which 1,500 women from 80 different countries took part. Dozens of others participated in various courses in July and June and all are now stranded in Syria.
According to the sources, “the Palestinian women delegation is evidence on the strength of relations between the Islamic Jihad and Iran, since it was a delegation for the Islamic Jihad par excellence that included the former prisoner, jihadist Hana Shalabi, and others.” The two delegations left Iran for Syria on their way for Egypt and then for Gaza, to which they were supposed to arrive two days ago. But due to the deteriorating security conditions in Syria, they were informed that the airports and crossings are closed at present and that they have to wait.