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Iran Backs Islamic Jihad’s 8,000-Man Army in Gaza

Hamas’ rival Islamic Jihad has built an 8,000-man army supported by Iran and “ready for martyrdom or victory. Martyrdom is more desirable."
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/7/2011, 3:48 PM

Islamic Jihad rally
Islamic Jihad rally
Flash 90

Hamas’ rival Islamic Jihad has built an 8,000-man army supported by Iran and “ready for martyrdom or victory.”

“Martyrdom is the more desirable," it says.

Its estimate of the number of terrorists trained for war against Israelis the first time Islamic Jihad has disclosed how many fighters it has.

"We are proud and honored to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran gives us support and help," Abu Ahmed, the spokesman for Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades told Reuters in a rare interview.

He denied that its weapons come from Iran and refused to comment on whether its fighters were trained by Iranians. Israeli intelligence officials previously have said that Hamas and other terrorists often travel to Iran, where Revolutionary Guards teach them.

"What I will say is that we have every right to turn to every source of power for help," said Abu Ahmed.

He told the interviewer that there is a demand from young people to join Islamic Jihad but that it “can't accept everyone ... It is a question of quality, not quantity.”

Concerning Israel’s successful targeting of Islamic Jihad terrorists last week, Abu Ahmed commented, "It is a good feeling to be under drone attack. When we chose the path of resistance, we opted either for martyrdom or victory. Martyrdom is the more desirable.”

Islamic Jihad has become more prominent by virtue of its not being in an official political role in Gaza, which officially is governed by Hamas.

It has been the most prominent holdout in a number of “ceasefires” from Gaza, none of which has held for a long time.

Abu Ahmed boasted of an advanced missile launcher that it showed on a video last week as it fired multiple missiles almost simultaneously from a pick-up truck. Israeli military officials think the video may have been taken in some other area, such as Lebanon or Iran.

However, Abu Ahmed maintained, "The al-Quds Brigades really surprised Israel, forcing them to rethink their assessment of us ... I don't think they realized we had that weaponry.”