Former IDF intelligence chief and INSS Managing Director Tamir Heyman said that Iran had no idea violence was about to break out in Gaza this past weekend between Israel and Islamic Jihad.
“When violence erupted in Gaza, Iran didn’t know about it,” he told the media on Monday. “They do not understand where Jenin is and what its commander in Jenin has done before... and what’s happening on the borders of Gaza. If they wanted to issue an order, they wouldn’t know the details to issue it correctly.
“After the violence erupted, the fact that the Islamic Jihad leaders were in Iran – they supported it. I imagine that the honor that they gave” those leaders and receiving them “as royalty” probably was greater as a result of Gaza firing rockets on Israel.
His analysis was contrary to wide speculation that the Islamic Republic had given the order to attack Israel now as retaliation for other operations that Jerusalem has reportedly undertaken against Iran.
Heyman said that it was likely that the Islamic Jihad leaders’ presence in the Islamic Republic and the compliments they were likely given there drove them to pressure their fighters on the ground to keep firing or even increase the volume of rockets.
Hamas vs. Islamic Jihad
In the briefing that was organized by Media Central, Heyman broke down the difference between how Hamas operates versus Islamic Jihad, and the significance of Islamic Jihad’s true leaders living abroad.
With Hamas, he said, “the decision-making is in Gaza. [Ismail] Haniyeh is the poster boy to explain what happened, but is not the decision-maker. The true leaders are [Yahya] Sinwar and [Mohammed] Deif. The Islamic Jihad leaders live abroad. They are in Iran [right now] and they give the orders.”
Islamic Jihad has “no strategic thinking. There are a bunch of very violent, very aggressive, non-educated, with very little military experience. It’s not like Hamas, it’s totally different.”
Heyman, who was IDF intelligence chief from 2018-2021, said the masters in Tehran are “very clever, they are well-educated. Strategic thinking is something you should admire in their thinking, and their negotiation capabilities are far better than any other actor I know.”
Heyman listed several factors explaining from Islamic Jihad’s perspective why the conflict happened, when there was no premeditated intent to fight. He said that Islamic Jihad has gotten little or no attention from the world, the region or Israel since the May 2021 Gaza war, and none of its followers are getting any of the 14,000 work permits in Israel. This has harmed its standing compared with Hamas.
Moreover, some of its followers in prison recently started a hunger strike for attention, and were basically ignored by the public and the media.
Finally, when Islamic Jihad West Bank chief Bassem Saadi was arrested last week, there were initial rumors circulating on social media that he had been killed.
This led to orders to carry out multiple anti-tank attacks against Israeli units.
When Israel hit these units and Islamic Jihad Gaza senior official Tayseer al-Jabari to stop the attacks, it was almost inevitable that it would respond with rocket fire.