Gaza-Based Militant Group Formally Acknowledges Presence in the West Bank

On Saturday,the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement published a formal declaration stating it established an ostensible group in the West Bank called the Unit Of The Martyrs Of the Occupied Interior.

The declaration also stated the group successfully recruited Shehadeh Abu al-Qiaan who was arrested by the Shin Bet last July for spying. Al-Qiaan, a Bedouin from a village near Hurra, was instructed by the group to join the IDF and send intelligence to the organization in Gaza. On May 30, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) arrested al-Qiaan for “promoting terrorist activity and gathering intelligence in Israeli territory” on behalf of the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement. The ISA alleged that after al-Qiaan joined the IDF, he began to collect intelligence and perform other activities on behalf of the Gaza-based organization.

A logo branding the new group was also published by the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement. The logo is typical of Palestinian militant organizations. It depicts an eagle clutching a rifle and a verse from the Quran: “The weakest house is the house of the spider.” Below the central part of the logo the words “Unit of the Martyrs of the Occupied Land” and a description of the Shehada “There is no God but Allah, Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah.”

Since 2022 FDD’s Long War Journal has tracked claims of attacks in the West Bank by Gaza-based militant organizations and other ostensibly established groups. On Sep. 14, the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement made its first claim saying the group’s fighters attacked the Huwarra military checkpoint. Other claims were also made, including documentation of attacks against Israeli troops, though the evidence is hardly proof of the group’s establishment due to the publications failing to demonstrate the assaults were taking place.

For most of 2022, Palestinian militant organizations routinely clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank. In part, the frequent clashes gave rise to the establishment of the Lion’s Den, a nascent militant organization comprised of fighters from different Palestinian factions. The Lions’ Den became the dominant militant group in the West Bank and were launching attacks against Israeli targets on a daily basis as well as orchestrating a terrorist attack in southern Tel Aviv, though the assault was thwarted before it was carried out.

During this period, FDD’s Long War Journal observed other militant organizations attempting to establish a presence in the West Bank. For example, on Oct. 8, the Popular Resistance Movement – an offshoot of the Popular Resistance Committees – announced it established itself in the West Bank and carried out attacks in response to IDF operations.

Both Gaza-based Popular Resistance Movement and the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement published communiques claiming attacks against IDF troops. Though the Popular Resistance Movement stopped publishing claims and remains dormant since Nov. 2022.

While the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement’s acknowledgement on Saturday is notable, the group’s West Bank operations remains mostly in the shadows. It has yet to openly operate in the West Bank like its counterparts, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. While there is evidence that the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement has recruited at least one member in Israel, the claims of activity in the West Bank is more likely to be an extensive propaganda campaign against Israel during an long period of violence that has not occurred since the Second Intifada.

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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