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Palestine’s Islamic Jihad movement selects new leader after 20 years: Official

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows Ziad al-Nakhala, the newly-elected leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement, which is based in the besieged Gaza Strip, has selected a new leader for the first time in over 20 years.

Syria-based Ziad al-Nakhala would replace Ramadan Abdullah Shalah as the movement’s secretary general, an unnamed senior official told AFP on Thursday, claiming that the latter had been suffering from serious health issues for months.

Sixty-year-old Shalah, who has led the Islamic Jihad since 1995, is reported to be in a coma following an unknown illness.

Nakhala, 65, has been serving as Shalah’s deputy since the 1990s.

The movement, which was founded in 1981 to realize the Palestinian cause in establishing an independent Palestinian state, has not publically confirmed the report yet.

Alongside the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement, a Gaza-based ally, the Islamic Jihad has defended Gazans against the Israeli regime during three deadly imposed wars since 2008.

Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement march with rocket-propelled grenade launchers during a military drill in the besieged Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007, which has prevented some two million Palestinians from having free access to the remainder of Palestine and the outside world. The blockade has also undermined living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented its economic and social fabric.

The Tel Aviv regime carries out regular attacks on its inhabitants under the pretext of hitting positions belonging to Hamas, which governs the territory.

The coastal sliver has also witnessed a fresh wave of deadly tensions since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests demanding the right to return for the Palestinians driven out of their homeland.

Nearly 190 Palestinians have been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.

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