Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad join forces to fight against IDF

Despite the differences between the two groups, they have increased their cooperation in recent months, both in Jenin and Nablus.

People carry weapons as they attend the funeral of Palestinian Mateen Dbaya, who was killed following an Israeli forces raid in Jenin, October 14, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)
People carry weapons as they attend the funeral of Palestinian Mateen Dbaya, who was killed following an Israeli forces raid in Jenin, October 14, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

The death of two Palestinians during clashes with IDF troops in the Jenin refugee camp on Friday has underscored the growing cooperation between the ruling Fatah faction and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

The two groups have increased their cooperation in recent months not only in Jenin but also in Nablus.

One of the dead Palestinian gunmen, Mateen Dabaya, 20, was identified as a member of PIJ’s al-Quds Brigades. The second gunman, Abdullah Abu al-Teen, 42, was a senior member of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Dabaya and Abu al-Teen were among scores of gunmen who took to the streets to confront the IDF soldiers in the camp.

Officials from the two groups said that their men were “martyred” while fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against the soldiers.

 Palestinian gunmen and mourners attend the funeral of Palestinian Islamic Jihad activist Matin dabaya, who was killed during clashes with Israeli forces, during his funeral in Jenin, in the West Bank, October 14, 2022.  (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) Palestinian gunmen and mourners attend the funeral of Palestinian Islamic Jihad activist Matin dabaya, who was killed during clashes with Israeli forces, during his funeral in Jenin, in the West Bank, October 14, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

This cooperation between the armed groups is taking place despite the political differences between them.

PIJ is staunchly opposed to any peace process with Israel, and has repeatedly called on the Palestinian Authority – which is dominated by Fatah loyalists – to halt all forms of cooperation and normalization with Israel, including security coordination. PIJ has also condemned the PA for arresting some of its men in the West Bank.

In July, the two groups said they also fought together against IDF soldiers during a military operation in the old city of Nablus.

 Palestinians clash with Israeli forces following the funeral of Palestinian Osama Adawy, 18, who was killed by Israeli troops during clashes on Wednesday, in Al Aroub camp in the West Bank, October 13, 2022. (credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS) Palestinians clash with Israeli forces following the funeral of Palestinian Osama Adawy, 18, who was killed by Israeli troops during clashes on Wednesday, in Al Aroub camp in the West Bank, October 13, 2022. (credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)

Two senior terrorists, Mohammed al-Azizi and Abdel Rahman Suboh, were killed during the clashes. They were among the founders of the Lions’ Den armed group, which has claimed responsibility for a series of shooting attacks against soldiers and settlers in the Nablus area.

Last month, al-Quds Brigades and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades held a joint rally in memory of Hamad Abu Jildeh, 24, who was also killed in an armed clash with IDF soldiers in Jenin refugee camp. Abu Jildeh was a member of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Palestinian sources said that cooperation between the two groups increased over the past year, first in Jenin and later in Nablus. The sources said that Palestinian security forces were aware of the cooperation between the two groups.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

According to the sources, some of the Fatah-affiliated gunmen in the two cities have also been cooperating with Hamas members.

Last week, PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhaleh confirmed that his organization was working together with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank.

He told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV station that the two groups did not set any preconditions or limits for collaboration with the Fatah gunmen.

Nakhaleh revealed that the cooperation between the two groups began after the escape of six Palestinian PIJ and Fatah inmates from Gilboa Prison in September 2021. One of the escapees was Zakariya Zubeidi, 45, commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin. The others were all members of PIJ.

Cooperation between the two groups is not limited to the West Bank – they joined forces in the Gaza Strip during the last round of fighting with the IDF.

A Fatah official in the West Bank also pointed out that his group’s gunmen fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the PIJ in the Jenin refugee camp during the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.

According to the official, the current collaboration in the northern West Bank is the direct result of the IDF’s security crackdown on gunmen belonging to all Palestinian factions.