“Islamic Jihad is taking the role that Hamas used to play five years ago,” says Mkaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Gaza’s Al Azhar University. “There is satisfaction among the Palestinian people that Islamic Jihad responded and retaliated against Israel. Hamas is under huge embarrassment in Gaza because it didn’t respond.”
It could also mark a new strategy by Iran, which may see its trusted Palestinian proxy as a means to accomplish two goals: diverting Israel's attention from its nuclear program and coaxing its longtime client Hamas back into the fold. Hamas, long a part of the "axis of resistance" led by Iran and Syria, recently decamped from Syria for pro-Western capitals.
“It would be a safe assumption that Iran would ideally like to see Israel involved in a long, protracted war that doesn’t focus on the Iranian nuclear program,” says Meir Javedanfar, a Tel Aviv-based Iran expert. “After the recent distancing of Hamas from Iran, Islamic Jihad making problems for Hamas could be possibly a way of showing that turning one’s back on Iran has a price.”
Today's cease-fire, mediated by Egypt, sought to put an end to four days of fighting that left at least 26 Palestinians dead, most of them militants, and unleashed hundreds of rockets targeting southern Israeli cities.
"We have set our conditions before agreeing to a truce and the occupation has accepted them," said Khader Habib of Islamic Jihad. "Egypt has assured us that Israel will stop targeted assassinations and we will respect the cease-fire as long as Israel respects it."