NO SURPRISE: Iran launches new terror group – in Israel's backyard

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israeli troops near the border between Israel and Central Gaza Strip October 18, 2015. Iran is counting on recruiting young men like these for a new terror group in Gaza, Al-Sabireen, or "The Patient Ones."

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – The nuclear deal between Iran, world powers and the United States, which was supposed to smooth relations between the Islamic republic and the West, has already made it possible for Iran to export more terror, a distinguished senior fellow with the Gatestone Institute has said.

Khaled Abu Toameh, a veteran journalist who has covered Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza Strip for 30 years, writes that the administration of President Barack Obama and the rest of the western world are looking the other way as Iran works to dominate the Middle East through proxies.

"Iran is already deeply involved in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. In recent months, the Iranians have also returned to the Palestinian arena, this time through a new group called the Al-Sabireen Movement for Supporting Palestine. Translated into English, 'Al-Sabireen' means 'The Patient Ones,'" Toameh writes.

It now remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration and other Western powers will wake up and realize that the Iranians are continuing to fool them, not only regarding Tehran's nuclear program, but also concerning its territorial ambitions in the Middle East.
- Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute

"The new Iranian-backed Al-Sabireen was established in wake of tensions between Iran and its two former allies in the Gaza Strip: Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis four years ago, relations between Tehran and Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been strained. The refusal of Hamas and Islamic Jihad publicly to support Iran's ally, President Bashar Assad, in his fight against the Syrian opposition, has resulted in the expulsion of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders from Syria. It has also prompted the Iranians to cut off financial aid to the two groups, an abandonment that has left them facing a severe and unprecedented crisis -- the worst in more than two decades."

Although its members are all likely Sunni Muslims, Toameh said Al-Sabireen has close ties to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite terror group mostly responsible for plunging Lebanon into civil war in the 1980s. According to reports in a Palestinian newspaper, the fighters in the new terror group are being paid handsomely by Iran. Each of the 400 members reportedly receives a salary of $300 per month; leaders receive up to $700 – both decent amounts in an area where the average income is $174 a month (or $2,088 a year). Poverty is rampant in Gaza at nearly 40 percent.

Al-Sabireen also shares a flag with Hezbollah, "the party of God," featuring an AK-47 assault rifle raised over the globe.

Toameh writes that the group is making plans for large scale terror operations inside Israel, but that may be more difficult in the absence of leadership. The group's top military commander, Ahmed Sharif al-Sarhi, was killed recently by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) recently. Al-Sarhi was said to be responsible for several shootings of Israelis. He was killed, Toameh writes, while trying to engage Israeli targets with a new .50 caliber sniper rifle provided by Iran.

So far, Toameh claims, Iran has also provided the new terror group with rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv in Israel's north from the Gaza Strip.

The political leader of the new group is Hisham Salem, a former commander of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

"It now remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration and other Western powers will wake up and realize that the Iranians are continuing to fool them, not only regarding Tehran's nuclear program, but also concerning its territorial ambitions in the Middle East," Toameh writes.

"Unless the U.S. and Western powers realize that Iran remains a major threat to world peace, Al-Sabireen and other terrorist groups will one day manage to establish a UN-recognized Palestinian state that would pose an existential threat to Israel and destabilize the entire Middle East."

The Gatestone Institute, where Toameh is a distinguished senior fellow, is a non-profit, conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton is the chairman of the board for the institute.