Former Palestinian Islamic leader dies

The former head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement Ramadan Shalah has died.
The former head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement Ramadan Shalah has died.

The former head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement has died after a long illness. He was 62.

Ramadan Shalah had been in a coma for more than three years after heart surgery, the group said. It didn't say where he died, but he is believed to have been in Lebanon on Saturday night.

Shalah led the Iranian-backed group for over 20 years, after its founder, Fathi Shikaki, was shot dead in Malta 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 Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip. Mosque loudspeakers across Gaza blared in the evening with tributes to Shalah.

Last year, the movement 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 Islamic group ruling Gaza.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad previously has taken part in numerous suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks that killed dozens of Israelis.

Shalah was on the US "most wanted list" of terrorist suspects with a $US5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

Australian Associated Press