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Palestinian jihadist group splits from Hezbollah
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
06/12/2012
Sources tell Lebanese paper that Iran-backed Ansar Allah is cultivating ties with al-Qaida affiliates.
 
The Palestinian terror group Ansar Allah announced a total “military, security and political” split from its backer Hezbollah, Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal reported on Wednesday.

Ansar Allah, which is led by former Fatah official Jamal Suleiman, issued a statement on Tuesday that said that the group had worked for the “jihadist resistance” for many years and would “continue on the path of jihad and resistance until the liberation of all occupied Palestine.”

The statement, which was distributed in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Sidon, said Ansar Allah would continue to exist as an armed “independent jihadist movement” whose aim was the “liberation of the land and holy places desecrated by the Jewish occupiers,” according to Al-Mustaqbal, the newspaper of Lebanon’s Future Movement, which is opposed to Hezbollah.

Ansar Allah, which the US has described as a “clandestine subgroup of Hezbollah” was first formed in 1982 during the First Lebanon War, and reportedly has hundreds of armed operatives in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Through Hezbollah, Ansar Allah has been an important proxy for Iran, through which Tehran has perpetrated its shadow war against Israeli and Jewish targets.

Ansar Allah was unknown until July 1994, when it issued a statement expressing support for the deadly bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hezbollah and Iran are widely suspected to have been behind that attack, which killed 85 people.

Ansar Allah and Hezbollah are also suspected of involvement in another terror attack, the bombing of a commuter aircraft, Alas Chiricanas Flight 00901, in Panama on the night of July 19, 1994 – a day after the AMIA bombing. A semtex plastic explosive charge, carried by a man calling himself Lya Jamal, went off killing 21 passengers, 12 of them Jewish.

Ansar Allah issued another statement after the Panama bombing, expressing support for the act.

Israel has maintained that the two bombings had their origins in Iran, which hired operatives from Hezbollah to carry them out.

Ansar Allah has since admitted its connection with Hezbollah.

In 2007, the group’s military leader, Maher Oweid, admitted that all of Ansar Allah’s funding, as well as security and political cover, came from Hezbollah.

Ansar Allah operatives were also trained by Hezbollah when the group had open training camps in Lebanon, and the group had previously taken a leading role in Hezbollah operations, Oweid said.

While openly admitting backing from the Hezbollah, Oweid denied that Ansar Allah has taken any money directly from Tehran. However, the group is known for holding military demonstrations on Al- Quds Day, the anti-Israeli “holiday” created by Ayatollah Khomeini.

According to Al-Mustaqbal, Ansar Allah’s announcement of its defection from Hezbollah has caused an uproar in Palestinian refugee camps, mostly because the statement revealed again the group’s substantial political, security and logistical relationship with Hezbollah and its backer, Iran.

The daily cited unnamed Palestinian sources as saying that the decision to split from Hezbollah came after disputes over Hezbollah’s declining financial support for the group. However, the sources also hinted that Ansar Allah’s decision may be connected with a fundamental disagreement over Hezbollah’s support for Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran’s closest regional ally.

Palestinian sources told Al-Mustaqbal that Ansar Allah had signaled that it may support Syrian rebel forces, whereas Hezbollah has worked closely with its sponsor, Iran, to play a critical role in helping Assad try to quash the rebels.

According to Al-Mustqbal, Hezbollah previously wired money every month to Ansar Allah’s leader Suleiman, but the transfers stopped in December. When Ansar Allah operatives made inquiries, Hezbollah told them that it wanted to discuss making funding subject to new conditions.

Hezbollah did not specify what those conditions were, however.

At the same time as it distanced itself from Ansar Allah, Hezbollah has also started to cultivate ties with other extremist Palestinian groups in Ain el-Hilweh, the sources told Al-Mustaqbal. The sources named two al-Qaida affiliates: Asbat al- Ansar (League of the Partisans), a Salafist extremist group which the US and UN have designated a terrorist group; and al- Haraka al-Islamiya al-Mujahid (The Islamic Struggle Movement), a Sunni group led by Sheikh Jamal Khattab.

Ansar Allah’s decision to split from Iran’s Lebanese proxy comes as disagreements over Syria continue to disrupt and shift Tehran’s influence among Palestinian terror groups.

Like Ansar Allah, Hamas has also sided with Syria’s rebels, who are Sunnis like themselves. At the same time, Hamas has also moved closer to Qatar. Tehran has tried to play down the resulting dispute, with the Persian language IRIB news agency quoting Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon on Monday as saying Hamas had “not distanced itself from Syria.”
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