Hezbollah Praises Spate of ISIS-Inspired Attacks in Israel

Hezbollah Praises Spate of ISIS-Inspired Attacks in Israel


Hezbollah Praises Spate of ISIS-Inspired Attacks in Israel

Hezbollah issued several statements over the course of the past week praising terrorist attacks carried out within Israel. The Jewish state has been witnessing one of the worst waves of terror attacks in years – three attacks in the last eight days, claiming the lives of 11 Israeli victims. 

While Hezbollah praising attacks against Israelis is not unusual, what made these statements slightly abnormal was that at least two of the attacks were connected to ISIS, the Shiite group’s enemies. In fact, one of the attacks – a shooting spree in the Israeli city of Hadera that occurred on March 27 – was explicitly claimed by ISIS. 

In two of Hezbollah’s statements – the ones released after the March 27 attack in Hadera and the March 30 attack in Bnei Brak – the group praised the attacks as the appropriate response to Arab-Israeli normalization efforts, stating that these processes would not grant Israeli security. Relatedly, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah told Hezbollah’s Al-Ahed newspaper that he considered the wave of attacks a response to Arab-Israeli normalization efforts. 

Each of the three terrorist attacks coincided with events demonstrating historical shifts in Israeli-Arab relations. The March 23 terror attack in the Israeli city of Beersheba occurred two days after Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed for a historic summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. The March 27 attack in Hadera and March 30 attack in Bnei Brak occurred, respectively, during and after the equally historic Negev Summit, which brought together the foreign ministers of Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco, together with the U.S. secretary of state, for a meeting in southern Israel. Both summits – the one held in Egypt and the following one held in Israel – dealt with the participant countries’ concerns over Iran’s regional expansionism and its nuclear program. 

The involvement of Hezbollah or its partners among Palestinian militant groups – including Hamas or PIJ – remains unclear, even though the latter groups also praised the attacks. However, Al-Nakhalah and Al-Ahed hinted to the involvement of the recently-formed “National Committee For the Defense of the Occupied Palestinian Interior,” whose task is to coordinate activities within the Arab Israeli community. 

The Secretaries-General of Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Meet 

After a series of terror attacks in Israel, the secretaries-general of Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad met in Lebanon this week. Both Hassan Nasrallah and Ziyad al-Nakhalah discussed “the latest situations in the Palestinian arena, the development of jihadist operations within the territories occupied in 1948, and the operations that took place over the past days.” Such a meeting demonstrates the coordination ahead of a sensitive period in April, with Easter, Passover, and Ramadan all taking place. It followed meetings the previous week between Iran’s foreign minister, who was visiting Beirut, and both terror leaders. Hezbollah has also been active in attempting to smuggle weapons to Israeli Arabs in recent months to foment civil strife. 

Israel and Palestinian Territories 

Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas Praise Terror Attacks in Israel 

Iran-backed PIJ and Hamas praised multiple terror attacks in Israel over the last week. On the Hadera attack on March 27, PIJ’s Khalid al-Batsh said “the self-sacrificing Hadera operation came in response to the summit of humiliation and shame in the occupied Negev.” Hamas added “we commend the valor and courage of the perpetrators of this heroic operation, which comes as retaliation for the blood of the martyrs, and in response to the aggression and terror of the occupation.” After the attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, PIJ proclaimed “the heroic operation of Bnei Brak is an affirmation of our people’s insistence on paying back the occupation the price of its aggression, and in response to the cries of children and mothers who lost their dear ones amid the silence of the international community.” Hamas likewise added “we express our blessing to the Tel Aviv operation.”

These statements of support from Iran-backed militias are noteworthy as in the cases of the Beersheba and Hadera attacks, Tehran’s Palestinian proxy and partner network amplified terrorism linked to ISIS militants, despite Iran’s own long history of clashing with ISIS. As discussed above, a similar dynamic can be seen in Hezbollah’s reaction to the attacks. But the Bnei Brak attack was different as the profile of the terrorist, a Palestinian, did not appear to have links to ISIS and the other episodes were instigated by Israeli Arabs. 


Russian Ambassador to Syria on Israeli Strikes 

Russia’s Ambassador to Syria Alexander Efimov warned last Thursday that Israel’s continued airstrikes in Syria were “provoking” Russia to react. Efimov complained that the Israeli strikes aimed to “escalate tensions and allow the West to carry out military activities in Syria.”

Syrian Mercenaries Head to Ukraine 

Syrian fighters are travelling to join Russian forces in Ukraine. The New York Times reports “recruiters across Syria have been drawing up lists of thousands of interested candidates to be vetted by the Syrian security services and then passed to the Russians.” The identities of these fighters are not clear to date, but they likely come from militias which have worked with Moscow over the years in fighting to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. Separately, Al-Hadath reported that Hezbollah would send 800 fighters to Russia to assist the Kremlin in its war against Ukraine. A deal was allegedly reached during a meeting between the head of Hezbollah’s security unit Naji Hassan al-Shartouni and a Russian official in Latakia. Other reports suggest that Hezbollah has even opened a recruitment office in Al-Qusayr, in western Syria, with more scheduled to open in Aleppo, Yabroud, and Sayyida Zainab. But these stories remain unconfirmed, and Hezbollah’s secretary-general has publicly denied any such plans. 


Muqtada al-Sadr Offers Rivals Chance to Form Government 

In a surprising move, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the most seats in the last Iraqi parliamentary election, announced this week that he was stepping back for the next 40 days and giving his Iran-backed rivals a chance to form Iraq’s next government. Sadr called on his followers not to interfere “neither positively nor negatively,” although it remains unclear as to the seriousness of his offer. He has been clashing with parties tied to the Iran-backed militias in the Shiite Coordination Framework, who have been demanding a national consensus government after they lost ground in the last election, whereas Sadr has been committed to forming a national majority government. This comes after Iraqi lawmakers this week failed for a third time to elect a new president due to a lack of quorum. On Monday, protesters connected with Iran-backed militias attacked the building of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Baghdad after a former KDP candidate criticized the highest Shiite authority in Iraq. The KDP office has repeatedly been attacked by pro-Iran protesters in recent years. 

Gas Deal Triggered Iran’s Missile Attack in Erbil 

This week, Reuters reported a nascent plan for Iraq’s Kurdistan region to supply gas to Turkey and Europe—with Israeli help—was part of what angered Iran into striking the Kurdish capital Erbil with ballistic missiles last month. Reuters spoke with Iraqi and Turkish officials who suggested they believe the attack was intended as a “multi-pronged message” to U.S. allies in the region. This likely suggests several incidents contributed to the Iranian operation—including Israel’s drone attack on an Iranian UAV base in Kermanshah in February after U.S. coalition forces downed a drone over Iraq that the Israeli defense establishment assessed was headed to Israel.