by Qassem Qassem, Al-Akhbar English
Abu Mujahid, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, was a guest of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon. During his visit, Israel assassinated Hezbollah resistance fighters in the province of Quneitra in Syria. Abu Mujahid attended their funerals. The Lebanese resistance and Palestinian resistance are part of one body, he says. Before his return to Gaza, Al-Akhbar conducted this interview with him.
The Popular Resistance Committees is a Palestinian coalition formed after the second Aqsa Intifada in 2000. Several operations were carried out by its military wing, the al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades. Most notable among these operations is the the first bombing of the Israeli Merkava tank, in addition to “Operation Dispelled Illusion,” during which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured and three secretary-generals were assassinated.
Al-Akhbar: What is your take on the assassination of Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian province of Quneitra?
Abu Mujahid: This is a serious escalation. The Israeli occupation does not like to see calm in the region. Israel will realize that assassinating this large number of martyrs in Quneitra was a foolish act and will have consequences. The blood of the martyrs, and the blood of Jihad, the son of martyred commander Imad Mughniyeh, will only further motivate the resistance.
AA: What about the timing of the operation?
AM: The Israeli entity is facing a dilemma. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances in the upcoming elections decreased after the latest war [in Gaza]. This operation was an attempt on his part to throw the ball into the resistance’s court, to elicit a response from it and drag it into a new war, through which he can achieve his goals. Past experiences have shown that targeting the resistance for electoral purposes — be it Hezbollah or in Palestine — ends in defeat. It happened before to Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres, and it will happen to Netanyahu. The occupation wanted to deliver a message. The resistance will not be silent, and it will certainly respond.
AA: You engaged in a 50-day war in Gaza to improve living conditions. What is the current situation in the Gaza Strip today?
AM: Gazans are living under severe and harsh conditions. Their situation is much worse than it was after the war in 2012, because what was agreed upon in Cairo was not implemented. The Israeli enemy did not abide by the terms of the agreement, which remained verbal and were not signed by any party. This reflected negatively on the Gaza Strip, especially on those whose homes were destroyed and were left to suffer during the recent storm. It is sad to see what we have come to — especially since we remained steadfast for 52 days, during which we used all our capabilities.
AA: Who is responsible for the current state of affairs?
AM:The politicians bear the responsibility for not fulfilling our demands. The resistance feels abandoned over what has happened. We were at the height of our military creativity, and politicians did not manage to convert our field achievements into gains for the people. They could have taken advantage of our achievements, and we could have exerted more pressure on the enemy, and taken the battle to Israel to achieve our demands.
AA:Did you have the capabilities to continue the war for over 50 days?
AM: We had the capabilities to continue fighting for months, and the enemy’s claim about degrading our capabilities and destroying our infrastructure was not true. I am able to confirm this fact based on my knowledge of the operations on the ground.
AA: Were you in contact with Hezbollah during the war?
AM: We maintained communication with our brothers in the Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) and the brothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We were in contact with them before, during, and after the war, especially with the leaders concerned with the Palestinian file. I can confirm that support did not cease, from the beginning to the end of the war.
AA: Do you mean military or moral support in the war?
AM: I mean both military and material support.
AA: After Egypt’s establishment of a buffer zone with Gaza, are you finding it difficult to bring weapons to the Strip?
AM: It has been really difficult, but the Palestinian determination and the efforts of the sons of the resistance to secure weapons to protect our people will not cease. These efforts did not and will not cease, whether through our brothers abroad, namely Hezbollah and Iran, or through our brothers at home.
AA: Are you preparing for any future battle?
AM: The resistance began to develop its capabilities immediately after the war. We finished the restoration phase and started the development phase. Today, we rely on our own capabilities.
AA: Were the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) affected by the disagreement between Hamas and the axis of resistance?
AM: Hezbollah and Iran did not stop supporting the resistance factions, and as far as I know, support for the al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ military arm) continued even during the contention and suspension of relations between the Hamas political leadership and the axis of resistance. On the political front, the dispute reflected negatively on the Palestinian cause as a whole. If this was a tactic by Hamas, it should not have been used with brothers who provided unconditional support for nothing in exchange. We should maintain a strategic relationship with our brothers in the party and Iran, because we share a common reality. The resistance axis offered us all kind of support. No Arab country — including the close and distant ones — considers Palestine a central cause, in the way that Iran does.
AA: The disagreement affected public opinion in Gaza. Frankly, is Hezbollah seen as a sectarian party?
AM: The Palestinian people and society are non-sectarian, in general. If Hezbollah is viewed with a sectarian eye, it would be due to negative propagation from within the organization. Palestinians do not have a sectarian mentality because the people have a cause and live under occupation. When someone offers us support without dictates, we should thank them. The sectarian discourse is not employed by all Palestinians.
AA: What about the alleged disagreement within Hamas between the fighters and politicians, especially with regard to the relationship with Hezbollah and Iran?
AM: There is a clear consensus within Hamas. The decision by the military and political leadership to restore the relationship with the axis of resistance was not made under pressure, but out of conviction. The brothers (Hamas) realized the mistake they made by not thanking Hezbollah and Iran, which led Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubaidah to thank the two parties in a speech. The speech had special significance, because Hamas’ fighters received the military support, and the political leadership in Gaza backed the fighters, which means that they approve of this expression of gratitude.
AA: How is armament related to the number of fighters in the factions?
AM: Armament is based on the number of fighters on the ground. For example, there are 3,000 PRC fighters on the ground, 5,000 from the Islamic Jihad, and 10,000 from Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Armament was sometimes disproportionate with the number of fighters on the ground and exceeded the set limit.
AA: Are you seeking to train your military cadres outside Gaza?
AM: A large number of field commanders received advanced training abroad. As for training youths outside of Gaza, the decision is linked to the security situation. We have no intention to get involved in matters that might impede the work of the resistance.
AA: What do you think about Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s statement that Hezbollah will dedicate their time to supporting the Palestinian resistance?
AM: Based on our experience with our brothers in Hezbollah, Sayyed Nasrallah’s words will certainly translate into actions on the ground, because he fulfills his promises.
AA:The number of operations in the occupied West Bank have increased recently. Is there a prospect for new commando operations?
AM: Our people will find the appropriate means to fight the occupation. The recent operations were a source of concern for the Palestinian Authority (PA). PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s inability to find a solution, his promotion of illusions, in addition to the political deadlock, will provoke popular anger in the West Bank and help create a fertile ground for the resistance, which will result in military operations.
AA: Is there a decision among the factions regarding these operations?
AM: Some were carried out based on a decision by the factions, and others through a personal decision. The two compliment each other. In the end, these are resistance efforts. We expect future operations against the enemy in the West Bank to be the most excruciating thorn in Israel’s throat.
AA: But has armament in the West Bank begun?
AM: This is a very sensitive issue. The incidents in the West Bank did not happen in isolation from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s statements on the need to provide arms to the West Bank, if successive operations take place in a short period of time. It was a powerful message which the occupation understood.
AA: During the uprising in 2000, the al-Aqsa Brigades (Fatah) were the most capable of launching attacks from the West Bank. But after the dismantling of the brigades and other factions, who will assume the leading role there?
AM: We will not necessarily adopt the same modus operandi as before. The resistance may adopt a new approach to carrying out operations during the next stage, and the factions will not necessarily be the ones to fight the occupation in the West Bank.
AA: What about the return of the dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan to the Gaza Strip and his alleged coordination with Hamas?
AM: We are a resistance faction that aims to strengthen the resistance front in Gaza. The issue of Dahlan and Hamas is complicated, and we do not wish to go into it. There is conflicting information about the relationship between Dahlan and Hamas. Thus, we do not want to comment until we understand what is really happening, be it a strategic or tactical relationship.
AA: Do you think Dahlan will be elected as president?
AM: The Palestinian people are conscious enough not to do that.
AA: Will there be a future war on Gaza?
AM: The social situation is very bad and will likely explode soon.