Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip – The oil, sugar, pasta and other staples looked innocuous enough as dozens of young Palestinian volunteers, sweating in the heat at a warehouse, packed them into cartons destined for Gaza’s poor during the holy month of Ramadan.
But in Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, almost everything has a political flavor. The food boxes bore the logo of Islamic Jihad and the Iranian flag alongside the Palestinian one. Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed extremist militant group, often challenges the larger Hamas.
Organizers at the packaging center said that the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, a Beirut-based Iranian charity, was financing the $2 million food aid project. Islamic Jihad has been granted the honors of distributing the 40,000 parcels, giving it a boost at a delicate time when Hamas is struggling to cope with a shifting regional landscape.
In recent months, Iran has suspended millions of dollars in monthly aid to Hamas because the group did not stand by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, its former patron, in his struggle against rebel forces. Unlike Hamas, Islamic Jihad did not leave its base in Damascus and has kept up relations with the government of Mr. Assad, a longtime Iranian ally.
Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza, said that the food relief served as an Iranian reminder to Hamas that Iran was its only reliable backer. “The aid also aims to support Islamic Jihad as a resistance movement in the face of Israel,” Mr. Abusada added.
Read more at The New York Times.