Ziad al-Nakhalah

Ziad al-Nakhalah is the U.S.-designated secretary-general of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Palestinian terrorist group largely based in the Gaza Strip. Nakhalah assumed the leadership of PIJ in September 2018 after serving as deputy secretary-general for more than two decades.“Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad names new leader,” Associated Press, September 28, 2018, https://apnews.com/d14e7e6a4a68481980b6db8052853f03; “Terrorist Designation of Ziyad al-Nakhalah,” U.S. Department of State, January 23, 2014, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266559.htm.

The U.S. Department of State has accused Nakhalah of cultivating “strong relations with the Government of Iran.”“Terrorist Designation of Ziyad al-Nakhalah,” U.S. Department of State, January 23, 2014, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266559.htm. After Nakhalah assumed the PIJ leadership in September 2018, the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat wrote that Iran feared that newly appointed deputy secretary-general Mohammad al-Hindi was more sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and might try to sway PIJ away from Iran’s influence. Iran allegedly preferred to have pro-Iran Nakhalah in the role of secretary-general with Hindi as his deputy in order to ensure the group’s continued allegiance. PIJ denied the reports.Ahmad Abu Amer, “Has Iran's influence increased in Palestinian arena?” Al-Monitor, October 16, 2018, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/10/palestinian-islamic-jihad-elections-iran-influence.html.

Nakhalah has maintained ties between PIJ and Iran since his election. In December 2018, Nakhalah traveled to Tehran, where he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and praised Iran for its support of the Palestinian cause.“Iran’s Top Diplomat Meets PIJ Chief,” Iran Front Page, December 29, 2018, https://ifpnews.com/exclusive/irans-top-diplomat-meets-pij-chief/; Adam Kredo, “Iran Hosts Palestinian Terror Group, Sparking Fears of New Attacks,” Washington Free Beacon, January 2, 2019, https://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-hosts-palestinian-terror-group-sparking-fears-of-new-attacks/. In 2014, the State Department accused Nakhalah of seeking to expand PIJ’s ties with Hamas.“Terrorist Designation of Ziyad al-Nakhalah,” U.S. Department of State, January 23, 2014, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266559.htm. In February 2019, Nakhalah reportedly met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to coordinate a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-revealed Middle East peace plan.Adnan Abu Amer, “What was Hamas’ Haniyeh doing in Egypt for 25 days?” Al-Monitor, March 20, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/03/hamas-ismail-haniyeh-25-days-visit-egypt-release-detainees.html; “Press release issued by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Egypt visit,” Hamas, February 5, 2019, http://hamas.ps/en/post/1895/press-release-issued-by-hamas-and-islamic-jihad-on-egypt-visit.

Nakhalah remains supportive of PIJ’s violent tactics. He personally claimed credit for PIJ missile attacks on Israel between 2008 and 2011.“Terrorist Designation of Ziyad al-Nakhalah,” U.S. Department of State, January 23, 2014, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266559.htm. In a December 2018 interview with Iranian TV channel al-Alam, Nakhalah praised the “axis of resistance” with Iran and Iran-backed Hezbollah. He warned of “strategic coordination” between PIJ and Hamas and a “joint operations room of the resistance factions.” He further warned Israel that PIJ’s fighters “will emerge from beneath the ground and from above the ground” to defeat Israel and cause it to “disappear.”Yoni Ben Menachem, “Islamic Jihad Leader: We Will Attack Israel from the North and South,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, January 1, 2019, http://jcpa.org/islamic-jihad-leader-we-will-attack-israel-from-the-north-and-south/.

Israel has twice arrested Nakhalah for participation in violent activities. Israeli authorities first jailed him in 1971 for participation with the Arab Liberation Front. He was released in 1985 as part of a prisoner exchange deal orchestrated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.Shlomi Eldar, “Islamic Jihad, the new lord of Gaza?” Al-Monitor, February 5, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/02/israel-egypt-gaza-strip-palestinians-hamas-islamic-jihad.html; Mohamed Majid and Ali Abo Rezeg, “Islamic Jihad's Ziad Nakhala: A lifetime of resistance,” Anadolu Agency, September 28, 2019, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/islamic-jihads-ziad-nakhala-a-lifetime-of-resistance/1267697. Israeli authorities arrested Nakhalah again in 1988 for his participation in the first Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel. Israel deported Nakhalah to Lebanon, where he became PIJ’s representative in Beirut.“Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad names new leader,” Associated Press, September 28, 2018, https://apnews.com/d14e7e6a4a68481980b6db8052853f03; Mohamed Majid and Ali Abo Rezeg, “Islamic Jihad's Ziad Nakhala: A lifetime of resistance,” Anadolu Agency, September 28, 2019, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/islamic-jihads-ziad-nakhala-a-lifetime-of-resistance/1267697. After the assassination of PIJ Secretary-General Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Ramadan Shallah became PIJ’s new secretary-general. Shallah subsequently appointed Nakhalah as his deputy secretary-general.Mohamed Majid and Ali Abo Rezeg, “Islamic Jihad's Ziad Nakhala: A lifetime of resistance,” Anadolu Agency, September 28, 2019, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/islamic-jihads-ziad-nakhala-a-lifetime-of-resistance/1267697.

In April 2018, Shallah reportedly fell into a coma following heart surgery in Lebanon.“Palestine’s Islamic Jihad denies leader was in coma in Lebanon,” Middle East Monitor, April 10, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180410-palestines-islamic-jihad-denies-leader-was-in-coma-in-lebanon/. PIJ denied reports of Shallah’s illness but scheduled internal elections for a new secretary-general in September 2018. Nakhalah was elected PIJ’s new secretary-general on September 27, 2018.“Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad names new leader,” Associated Press, September 28, 2018, https://apnews.com/d14e7e6a4a68481980b6db8052853f03; “Palestine’s Islamic Jihad denies leader was in coma in Lebanon,” Middle East Monitor, April 10, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180410-palestines-islamic-jihad-denies-leader-was-in-coma-in-lebanon/; “Palestinian Islamic Jihad chooses new leader, remains close to Iran,” Times of Israel, September 28, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-islamic-jihad-chooses-new-leader-remains-close-to-iran/; Ahmad Abu Amer, “Has Iran's influence increased in Palestinian arena?” Al-Monitor, October 16, 2018, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/10/palestinian-islamic-jihad-elections-iran-influence.html.

 
United States

Designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department on State on January 23, 2014.“Terrorist Designation of Ziyad al-Nakhalah,” U.S. Department of State, January 23, 2014, https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266559.htm.

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