Axis of Resistance mourns the death of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah

Ramadan Shalah, the former Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) died June 6 at the age of 62. Shalah reportedly died in Lebanon of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2018.

Shalah was appointed Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 1995 shortly after the killing of his predecessor Fathi Shaqaqi in Malta. During his tenure, Shalah was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for racketeering and a host of other charges. He was also on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list for his illegal activities involving PIJ.

“Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shalah is wanted for conspiracy to conduct the affairs of the designated international terrorist organization known as the “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” (PIJ) through a pattern of racketeering activities such as bombings, murders, extortions, and money laundering,” the FBI statement read.

Shalah managed PIJ through several major conflicts against Israel, most notably; Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge. However, within some Palestinian militant circles, Shalah is most recognized for his efforts in building the group’s military capability.

According to “Abu Hadi,” a senior al Quds Brigades leader, because of Shalah’s efforts, the group acquired the military capability to strike Tel-Aviv, which first occurred during Operation Cast Lead in 2012.

“We do not forget when he [Shalah] was searching for an answer. How would we strike Tel-Aviv before the year 2012? The resistance killed and inflicted pain against the occupier who harmed the Arab and Islamic nation. Days went by and in 2012 during the press conference in Cairo he answered the question, when he said – at that time: The Mujahideen in Palestine answered the difficult question which is how to strike Tel-Aviv? After the Arab capitals were unable to beat it, we say to you after trusting in God, we have struck Tel-Aviv and its environs in the name of the Arab and Islamic nations and revolutionary peoples.”

In an example of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s close relationship with Iran, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, eulogized Shalah after his passing.

“I express my condolences on the passing away of Dr. Ramadan Abd Allah Shalah to the beloved Palestinian nation and all mujahids who care for the question of Palestine, particularly the organization of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement as well as the family of this noble man,” Khamenei’s statement said.

Indeed, Shalah had some success leading PIJ which included uniting many of the Palestinian factions under the Joint Operations Room in 2017. He also ensured continued military and financial support from the group’s chief benefactor, Iran.

Since Shalah’s stroke in 2018, Ziad Nakhalah was appointed as his replacement and has attempted to steer the group through various military confrontations against Israel. The most recent, being an unimpressive response of the targeted killing of an al Quds Brigades commander, Baha Abu al Ata, in November 2019 by Israel.

The three day clash resulted in the death of 15 PIJ militants, a loss not experienced by the group since the 2014 Gaza war.

It is too early to say if Nakhalah will achieve or surpass his predecessor’s accomplishments. Nakhalah will attempt to build on Shalah’s success of strengthening PIJ’s military capability and continued relationship with Iran. Additionally, the strengthening of ties with the Axis of Resistance has become an emerging priority as the conglomerate of pro-Iranian factions attempt to unite militarily against Israel and the United States.

Although PIJ remains a potent militant group, Shalah’s departure in 2018 affected the group, which is a result of the leadership mismanaging several military confrontations against Israel between 2018 and 2020. As previously stated, it’s too early to predict if PIJ will be able to replicate the success it had under Shalah considering that Nakhalah’s tenure has been marred with several failures which does not bode well for the future of one of Gaza’s largest militant groups and its leadership.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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