Former leader of the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Ramadan Shallah, has died after a long battle with a chronic disease, the Gaza-based movement confirmed.
The 62-year-old, who was in a medical coma after suffering multiple heart and kidney complications for about two years, died in a Damascus hospital on Saturday.
“We mourn the passing of a great Palestinian leader who held the banner of Jihad for Palestine and Jerusalem since the founding of the movement,” PIJ said in the statement.
The exact nature of his medical condition or coma remained unknown. PIJ officials declined to elaborate when asked by Al Jazeera.
Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of the PIJ political bureau in Gaza said Shallah will be buried at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital,Damascus.
Shallah became PIJ leader in 1995 after the death of Fathi Shiqaqi, who was assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in Malta.
Gaza-based senior PIJ leader Dawood Shihab told Al Jazeera that the group will remain faithful to Shallah’s principles and legacy.
“Dr Shallah was an Arab and Muslim patriot who always believed in the cause of Palestine,” he said.
In a statement carried by the official Palestine news agency, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, “We have lost a major patriotic figure.”
Gaza-based Hamas movement issued a statement saying “[Shallah] is one of Palestine’s great leaders and is an example of patience, resilience and honesty and a role model as a fighter”.
Shallah, who was born in Gaza, did his PhD in economics from the United Kingdom and taught at the University of South Florida from 1993 to 1995 before he assumed PIJ’s leadership.
The US government placed him on its most-wanted list due to PIJ’s role in attacks against Israeli targets in occupied Palestine.
In 2018, Shallah’s deputy, Beirut-based Ziyad Nakhaleh, was elected as his successor.
The PIJ was founded in Gaza in the last seventies as a response to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank after defeating several Arab states during the 1967 war.
The PIJ is mainly supported by Iran which provides most of its military capabilities and training.
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