GroundBrief: Islamic Jihad shoots IDF soldier and claims responsibility, Bitcoin fever in Gaza, Hezbollah observes UNIFIL and more

Events happening on the ground in the Middle East

Curated by: Joe Truzman

1. Islamic Jihad takes responsibility for shooting IDF soldier 

A video released by Palestinian Islamic Jihad shows an IDF soldier being shot by one of their snipers at the Gaza border on Jan 22nd. The soldier was spared from serious injury or death by his helmet. He was released from the hospital with minor injuries.

  • It has been suspected for several weeks the Iranian backed militant group was responsible for the shooting. It happened at the Gaza border as Palestinians were throwing rocks at IDF soldiers.

  • The IDF retaliated by destroying two Qassam Brigades observation posts, killing one militant. They also bombed a Qassam Brigades training camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

2. Bitcoin fever sweeps militant groups in Gaza  

This week, Hamas’ military wing, Qassam Brigades, announced it was accepting donations via digital currency Bitcoin. This enables the group to receive funds without regulations to restrict them.

  • Recall one of our previous GroundBrief newsletters, we reported about a salafist group in Gaza and al-Qaeda affiliate, Tawhid al-Jihad. Their money-man, Maddgaza, has promoted Bitcoin via online militant channels for many months. He frequently asks users to donate Bitcoin for his cause.

  • Another salafist group and al-Qaeda affiliate in Gaza, Jaysh al-Umma, published their Bitcoin address two days after Qassam Brigades in hope of receiving donations.

  • A Fatah linked militant group, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one of Iran’s many beneficiaries in Gaza, also joined the Bitcoin bonanza. On Saturday, they published information for supporters to donate.

3. Hezbollah observes IDF and UNIFIL at the Lebanon border

For several months the IDF has been constructing a large wall along the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon. The purpose of the wall is to stop Hezbollah fighters from entering and attacking Israeli villages near the border. This hasn’t stopped Hezbollah from keeping close tabs on IDF activities as construction progresses.

  • UNIFIL observers accompanying IDF soldiers are not immune to Hezbollah reconnaissance. This video was taken near al-Adisah in southern Lebanon several days ago.

4. Libya clashes continue between militia groups 

A UN brokered ceasefire in Libya is collapsing. The World Health Organization stated 14 have been killed and 64 wounded in fighting between rival militias. Reports claimed a ceasefire was to go into effect a couple of weeks ago but clashes have not ceased.

  • On Thursday, members of the Libyan Arab Army fought against militias in the southern part of the country.

5. Syrian soldiers attacked in northern Hama Governorate, Syria 

The Syrian civil war may be almost over but that hasn’t kept rebel groups from attacking Syrian Arab Army soldiers.

  • This week in the northern Hama Governorate, members of the Free Syrian Army, Jaysh al-Izza, targeted a Syrian Arab Army position with a Fagot anti-tank missile. The group claims they successfully destroyed a Kornet Anti-tank guided missile platform and killed several Syrian soldiers.

  • Jaysh al-Izza have become proficient in the use of anti tank guided missiles against their enemies. They were made famous in 2016 when they shot down a Russian helicopter with an ATGM.

6. Iranian backed militia block U.S. patrol in Iraq  

The Popular Mobilization Forces, a group of mostly Shia militias backed by Iran, attempted to prevent a U.S. patrol from entering one of the city’s districts on Friday according to local reports. This type of interference may cause friction between American soldiers and Iranian backed forces. There have been calls in the Iraqi parliament for the removal of American soldiers from the country.

7. Venezuela’s embroiled President has support in Gaza

When it comes to Gaza, expect the unexpected. In a show of support, members belonging to the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine displayed a poster of Venezuela’s President, “comrade Nicolas Maduro” during March of Return demonstrations near the Gaza border Friday. It does make sense the organization would support Maduro since both are a part of revolutionary socialist movements.