Iranian support for Palestinian terrorism

Lebanon ; Palestine ;

INVOLVED IN THIS ARTICLE:

Al-Ansar Charity Association

Al-Ansar Charity Association

Martyrs Foundation

Martyrs Foundation

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Overview

– In late January 2020, the Al-Ansar Charity Association, affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), distributed Iranian financial support to families of shaheeds killed from the beginning of the Second Intifada (2000) until Operation Protective Edge (2014). The funds were delivered to the association by the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, which is used by the Iranians as a channel for funneling funds intended for social institutions supporting the terrorist organizations. The amount distributed in the Gaza Strip among the families of shaheeds was not specified. However, in the ITIC’s assessment, similarly to 2018, the total amount was close to $2 million, paid to about 4,800 families (each family received the sum of $300-600).

– There are several institutions involved in the process of transferring the funds from Iran to the families of shaheeds in the Gaza Strip: The Iranian Martyrs Foundation, its branches in Lebanon (the Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation collaborating with Lebanese Hezbollah’s Martyrs Foundation), the Islamic National Bank (a Hamas institution), and the PIJ-affiliated Al-Ansar Charity Association, which is an executive wing of sorts for the distribution of the funds. This year and in previous years, offices of Al-Ansar Association distributed eligibility coupons to the families of shaheeds killed in 2000-2014. During the distribution of the coupons, the picture of Qassem Soleimani, killed by the United States in a targeted killing, was posted in the Al-Ansar office, as well as the Iranian flag, the emblem of the Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation, and the inscription “Iran is with the families of shaheeds.” All of this was done to glorify Iran and increase its influence among the Gazan public.

– The distribution of funds from Iran to families of shaheeds killed from the beginning of the Second Intifada until Operation Protective Edge (2000 – July 2014) has been carried out annually in this manner by the Al-Ansar Charity Association. Usually, the sums distributed total about $2 million, delivered to about 4,800 beneficiaries, residents of the Gaza Strip. The funds are usually delivered annually. However, in 2019, the distribution of payments to the families of shaheeds was disrupted, perhaps due to Iran’s financial difficulties.

– In addition, smaller amounts of money are delivered by Iran to other categories of shaheeds’ families in the Gaza Strip, for instance, Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge or families of shaheeds from the Gaza Strip to whom the Palestinian Authority decided to cut financial support due to their belonging to Hamas (Al-Monitor in Arabic, June 6, 2019). Payments to the additional categories of shaheeds’ families are delivered in additional channels, not necessarily through the Al-Ansar Charity Association. In addition, in the midst of the wave of popular terrorism in Judea and Samaria, Iran announced its support of $7,000 to each shaheed family in the wave of terrorism (referred to as the Quds Intifada) and $30,000 to each family whose home was destroyed by Israel. It is unclear whether payments have indeed been made, when, and by what channel.

Fund transfer from Iran to the Gaza Strip

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Fund transfer from Iran to the Gaza Strip

Institutions involved in the fund transfer from Iran to the Gaza Strip

– Several institutions in Iran, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip are involved in the transfer of funds from Iran to the families in the Gaza Strip. Following are basic details about the institutions involved in the fund transfer process:

– The Iranian Martyrs Foundation: A charity association which was established by Imam Khomeini in Iran in order to support the families of those killed in the Iran-Iraq War. The foundation has branches in various countries in the Middle East, as an expression of Iranian support of the armed militias and semi-military forces which it handles and sponsors in those countries. The institutions operating in Lebanon are Hezbollah’s Martyrs Foundation and the Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation, which is the Palestinian branch of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation (these two branches operate in collaboration with each other). The Iranian Martyrs Foundation and its branches in Lebanon were designated by the US Department of the Treasury (2007) as foundations supporting terrorist organizations because they provide financial support to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the PIJ.

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Emblem of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation

– Hezbollah’s Martyrs Foundation operating in Lebanon: A branch of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, which was established in order to take care of the families of Hezbollah’s shaheeds. It is a Hezbollah foundation providing social and economic support to the families of Hezbollah’s military wing operatives. In the battle for hearts and minds, Hezbollah’s Martyrs Foundation is engaged in cultivating the “Shaheed culture” (i.e., glorifying Hezbollah’s shaheeds and turning them into role models for the younger generation). Due to its extensive scope of activity, the annual expenses of Hezbollah’s foundation are very high, roughly estimated by the ITIC at around $100 million (most of which is transferred from Iran).

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Emblem of Lebanese Hezbollah’s Martyrs Foundation

– The Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation operating from Lebanon: A Palestinian institution established by Hezbollah’s Martyrs Foundation to support families of Palestinian shaheeds killed in military actions against Israel. In the ITIC’s assessment, it is this institution which transfers the funds from the Iranian Martyrs Foundation to the relevant institutions in the Gaza Strip, including the Al-Ansar Charity Association. The ITIC has no information on the channels by which the funds are being transferred, but it can be estimated that they are transferred in cash, by couriers or by money changers. Another option is using banks and commercial companies providing services to Hezbollah’s Martyr’s Foundation.

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Right: Poster on the distribution of the aid in February 2019: The Al-Ansar Charity Association, with the assistance of the Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation, carries out the project of support and care of the shaheeds’ families (Al-Wataniya Channel, February 21, 2019). Left: A PIJ delegation visits at the offices of the Al-Ansar Charity Association in Gaza. The delegation is welcomed by the association chairman Nafez al-A’raj (Facebook page of the Al-Ansar association in Gaza, March 17, 2015)

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Emblem of the Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation

– The Al-Ansar Charity Association: A PIJ-affiliated charity association operating in the Gaza Strip. It was founded during the Second Intifada (2001). It is headed by PIJ activist Nafez al-A’raj (Abu Suhaib). The association is used by the Iranians as a channel for transferring funds from the Iranian Martyrs Foundation to the Gaza Strip as indirect support for the PIJ, which is the terrorist organization second in importance in the Gaza Strip after Hamas. This organization maintains close ties with Iran, which regards it as its preferred Palestinian organization, and receives military and financial support from Iran.

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Emblem of the Al-Ansar Charity Association

– The Islamic National Bank (INB): The bank was established in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas administration in November 2008. It has four branches in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority does not recognize the bank and even outlawed it. The US Department of the Treasury designated it (2010) as a terrorist entity because it is controlled by Hamas and provides financial services to its military operatives and employees. During Operation Protective Edge, the branches of the bank in west Gaza City and Khan Younes were attacked by the Israeli Air Force because this is a Hamas institution transferring funds for terrorist activity. Two years before, during Operation Pillar of Defense, the bank branch in Gaza was attacked.

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Emblem of the Islamic National Bank in Gaza

Manner of distribution of the funds by the Al-Ansar association in late January 2020

– The distribution of funds by the Al-Ansar association was carried out on January 19-27 2020. According to a report on the Al-Mayadeen Channel (affiliated with Hezbollah), the current round of distribution includes 4,800 people who are eligible for the Iranian support funds (similar to the number in 2018). These are families of Palestinians killed from 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada, until late June 2014 (families of those killed in Operation Protective Edge receive separate support funds). The process of receiving the funds was as follows: Anyone eligible to receive the funds had to go to the head office of the Al-Ansar association in the Gaza Strip on the date set according to their place of residence. At the offices of the association, they received a coupon with the name of the beneficiary and the sum of money they are entitled to. The beneficiary had to go to the branch of the Islamic National Bank with the coupon, where they received the sum in cash, probably in US dollars.

– Unlike in previous years, this year, the overall amount delivered to the families was not specified. However, assuming every family receives the sum of $300-600 and there are about 4,800 beneficiaries, it can be roughly estimated that the support amount for the current year is about $2 million. Similar amounts were delivered to the Al-Ansar association in 2018 ($1,870,000) and in 2017 (about $2 million).

Using the financial support to glorify Iran

– The distribution of funds to shaheeds’ families is used to glorify Iran among the Gazan public by presenting it as a country that provides financial assistance to the Palestinians, unlike other countries. Nasser al-Sheikh Ali, deputy chairman of the Al-Ansar association, pointed out in an interview to the Al-Mayadeen Channel that Iranian support was distributed this year despite Iran’s serious financial situation due to the US sanctions. Shaheeds’ family members noted that the Iranian financial support indicates the Iranian support and solidarity with them and the fact that contrary to other counties, Iran did not forget them (Facebook page of the Al-Ansar Charity Association, with an attached report of the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen Channel from Lebanon on the distribution of Iranian support).

– In the offices of the Al-Ansar association, where the beneficiaries received their eligibility coupons, there was a large photo of Qassem Soleimani, the Qods Force commander killed in Iraq in early January 2020 in a targeted killing by the United States. The emblem of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation is visible at the bottom of the photo. Another photo posted in the hall shows the symbol that appears on the Iranian flag.

Appendix

Al-Ansar Charity Association in the Gaza Strip

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Emblem of the association as appears on its official Facebook page – (Facebook page of the Al-Ansar Charity Association, January 18, 2015)

– The Al-Ansar Charity Association is an Islamic charity operating in the Gaza Strip. It is affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The offices of the association are in Al-Nasr Street in Gaza City. Its telephone number is 08-2867556 and its e-mail address is info@alansar.ps. The association is headed by Nafez al-A’raj, who is affiliated with the PIJ.

– The association deals, inter alia, with the transfer of Iranian financial support to families of Palestinian shaheeds in the Gaza Strip and Judaea and Samaria, mainly those who were killed from the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. In recent years, the association has also begun to distribute financial support to families of shaheeds from the Gaza Strip killed during Operation Protective Edge. In addition, it provides financial support to families of prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons, and to families whose homes were destroyed as a result of IDF activity. The support funds, which have been transferred from 2002, originate from Iran. In total, the Al-Ansar association in Gaza provides financial support from Iran to about 7,000 families of Palestinian shaheeds.

– On January 26, 2015, the Al-Ansar Charity Association inaugurated its new building in Gaza, after the association’s building had been attacked by the Israeli Air Force in 2004 and once again in 2008, during Operation Cast Lead. The association released a series of photos from the construction phase until the end of the construction of its building (it is presented in a video on the association’s official Facebook page). Close-ups in the video reveal that the new building owes its construction to the financial assistance of the Palestinian Martyr’s Foundation, by which funds are transferred from Iran through Lebanon (Facebook page of the Al-Ansar Charity Association, January 18, 2015; YouTube, January 26, 2015).

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The new building of the Al-Ansar association – (YouTube, January 26, 2020)

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Nafez al-A’raj, the chairman of the association, at the site where the association’s new building is under construction (YouTube, January 26, 2015)

Nafez al-A’raj, chairman of the Al-Ansar Charity Association

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Nafez al-A’raj, chairman of the Al-Ansar Charity Association in Gaza – (Facebook page of the Al-Ansar Charity Association, February 11, 2015)

– His full name is Nafez Uthman Abdel Rahman al-A’raj (AKA Abu Suhaib).
– He is currently the chairman of the Al-Ansar Charity Association in Gaza.
– He is affiliated with the PIJ, an organization which he joined as a young man.
– His brother Amar al-A’raj was a senior operative in the PIJ’s military wing, one of the founders of the PIJ’s military infrastructure. He was killed in 1996 during an attempted arrest by the Palestinian Authority security services in Gaza. Amar al-A’raj is considered “the Jihad engineer.” He is the one who made the IEDs which were used in the deadly terrorist attacks in Beit Lid, Kfar Darom, and Netzarim.

Source » terrorism-info

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