Former head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad dies
The former head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement died on Saturday night after a long illness. He was 62.
Ramadan Shalah had been in a coma for more than three years, the group said in a statement. It didn't say where he died, but he is believed to have been in Lebanon.
In April 2018, Shalah suffered several heart attacks and was transferred from Damascus, where he was based, to Beirut for surgery. He failed to regain consciousness.
Although his deteriorating health was attributed to natural causes, the Palestinian Authority embassy in Beirut said at the time that he may have been poisoned by Israel.
Shalah led Islamic Jihad, which has received support from Iran, for over 20 years, after its founder, Fathi Shikaki, was shot dead in Malta in 1995 in an attack widely attributed to Israel. In 2018, the group named Shalah’s deputy, Ziad al-Nakhalah, as a new leader.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has offices in Syria and Lebanon, but most of its activities are focused in the besieged Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip. Mosque loudspeakers across Gaza broadcast tributes to Shalah in the evening.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also offered his condolences. "By losing Shalah we lost a great national man," he said in a statement published by the Palestinian WAFA news agency said
Last year, Islamic Jihad took part in several rounds of heavy fighting with Israel. But in recent months it has remained committed to an unofficial truce brokered by regional mediators between Israel and Hamas, the larger Islamist group which rules Gaza.
Shalah was on the U.S. “most wanted list” of terrorist suspects with a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Agencies contributed to this report.