Ramadan Shallah was on the U.S. “most wanted list” of terrorist suspects with a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Shallah, who had been in a coma for more than three years after heart surgery. The group didn’t say where he died, but he was believed to have been in Lebanon.
Shallah led the Iranian-backed group for over 20 years, after its founder, Fathi Shikaki, was shot dead in Malta in a 1995 attack widely attributed to Israel. In 2018, the group named Shallah’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.
“We pledge to continue the route of resistance until we liberate Palestine with the allies in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah,” al-Nakhalah told the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV during the funeral.
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.