Syrian fighters belonging to Islamic Jihad killed in southern Lebanon

Islamic Jihad published a statement on its official Telegram channel on Wednesday, grieving the deaths of three fighters belonging to its Syria branch, Ali al-Aswad Brigade. Islamic Jihad said the fighters died in southern Lebanon as a part of the al-Aqsa Flood operation against Israel.

“With the highest signs of pride, the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, deliver to our struggling Palestinian people and to the Arab and Islamic nations: The martyr mujahid Mahmoud Muhammad Balauni (29 years old), martyr mujahid Ahmed Muhammad Halawa (28 years old), and the martyr mujahid Muhammad Hussein Joud (27 years old). Those who rose on the borders of occupied Palestine in southern Lebanon as part of the al-Aqsa Flood battle while performing their combat duty,” said the statement.

The deaths of the Islamic Jihad fighters add to the growing evidence of foreign fighters aligned with the Iran-led Resistance Axis that are actively engaging Israel in the ongoing seven-month conflict.

On Mar. 2, the Israeli military said that it had targeted a vehicle in southern Lebanon carrying members of the Iran-backed Syrian militia Imam Hossein Brigade, who had launched rockets into northern Israel earlier that day.

Less than a week before the strike on members of the Imam Hossein Brigade, Israel killed two Syrian fighters belonging to Islamic Jihad operating in southern Lebanon.

Notably, on Nov. 22, 2023, Hamas announced that Israel killed a group of fighters in an airstrike as they traveled in a vehicle in southern Lebanon. The target of the attack was Khalil al-Kharaz, a missile commander belonging to the Lebanese branch of Hamas. Notably, the strike killed two Turkish nationals who were members of Hamas: Yakup Erdal and Seyfullah Bilal Öztürk.

Other Iran-led Resistance Axis groups may be discreetly conducting operations in Lebanon. One such example is the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which has taken credit for attacks on Israeli territory during the conflict. Some of these attacks have allegedly occurred against Israeli military installations in the Golan Heights. Still, other statements have claimed attacks on the port city of Ashdod and an unidentified target in the Mediterranean.

It’s impractical for the Islamic Resistance in Iraq to launch drones on targets in Ashdod and the Mediterranean Sea from areas such as Iraq or Syria because they would likely be shot down before they reached their destination. However, if they were launched from Lebanon, it would be a more feasible operation.

The IRGC, a key actor in supporting Hezbollah, is likely operating in Lebanon, and evidence suggests their involvement in aiding the group during the 2021 conflict in Gaza. Despite this, all confirmed Israeli actions against IRGC members in connection to the war have taken place in Syria.

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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