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Palestinian Islamic Jihad

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Islamic Jihad Movement
حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين
FounderAbd Al Aziz Awda
Fathi Shaqaqi
LeaderFathi Shaqaqi (1981–1995)
Ramadan Shalah (1995–2018)
Ziyad al-Nakhalah (2018–present)
Dates of operationOctober 1981 – present
Split fromMuslim Brotherhood
Active regionsGaza Strip and Lebanon
Size8,000 (2011)[2]
Part ofAlliance of Palestinian Forces
Axis of Resistance
AlliesState allies:
Non-state allies:
Designated as a terrorist group by Australia
 European Union
 New Zealand
 United Kingdom
 United States

The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (Arabic: حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين, Harakat al-Jihād al-Islāmi fi Filastīn), commonly known simply as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), is a Palestinian Islamist paramilitary organization formed in 1981.[6]

PIJ formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and was influenced ideologically in its formation by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It is a member of the Alliance of Palestinian Forces, which rejects the Oslo Accords and whose objective is the establishment of a sovereign Islamic Palestinian state.[7] It calls for the military destruction of Israel and rejects a two-state solution.[8] The organization's financial backing has historically come mainly from Syria and Hezbollah.[9][10] Since 2014, PIJ has seen its power steadily increase with the backing of funds from Iran.[11]

The armed wing of PIJ is Al-Quds Brigades (also known as "Saraya"), also formed in 1981, which is active in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with its main strongholds in the West Bank being the cities of Hebron and Jenin. Its operations have included suicide bombings, attacks on Israeli civilians, as well as the firing of rockets into Israel, targeting civilians. PIJ has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States,[12] the European Union,[13] the United Kingdom,[14] Canada,[15] Australia,[8] New Zealand[16][17] and Israel.[18]

History and background

Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah was wanted by the FBI for conspiracy to conduct the affairs of the designated international terrorist organization known as the "Palestinian Islamic Jihad".

PIJ was formally established in Gaza in 1981 by two Palestinian activists: Fathi abd al-Aziz Shaqaqi, a Rafah-based physician, and Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Awda, an Islamic preacher from the Jabaliyya refugee camp, as well as Ramadan Shalah, Bashir Moussa, and three other Palestinian radicals. Based in Egypt, Shaqaqi and Awda were originally members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their views on the destruction of Israel led them in 1979 to establish Islamic Jihad-Shaqaqi Faction, a branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.[19] and conducted operations out of Egypt. The Shaqaqi Faction was expelled from Egypt in 1981, following the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the 3rd President of Egypt, by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.[20] Shaqaqi and Awda returned to Gaza where they formally established PIJ,[21][22] from where it continued its operations.

The aim of the organization was the establishment of a sovereign Islamic Palestinian state within the geographic borders of pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine. Completely rejecting the political process, the organization professes that its goals can only be achieved through military means.[23][24]

PIJ began its armed operations against Israel in 1984. In 1988, its leaders were exiled by Israel to Lebanon. While in Lebanon, the group received training, support and other backing from Hezbollah and its backers in Iran, and developed a close relationship with the organization. In 1990, the headquarters of PIJ moved to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where it continues to be based,[25] with offices in Beirut, Tehran, and Khartoum.

PIJ masterminded several suicide attacks in Israel,[26] and continues to be considered by Israel the most extreme organization in its operational methods and commitment to the destruction of Israel.[27] By 1995 PIJ was, according to Fisk, "perhaps the fiercest of all Israel's modern-day enemies."[28] There was a subsequent crackdown on the PIJ by Israel and the Palestinian National Authority which led to a significant weakening of the organization.[29]

On 20 February 2003, University of South Florida computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian was arrested after being indicted on a terrorism-related charge. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft alleged at a press conference that Al-Arian was the North American head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On 6 December 2006, Sami Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison, pursuant to a plea bargain.[30] In November 2006 he was found guilty of civil contempt for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury and served 21 months in prison on that conviction. On 27 June 2014, the US Federal Government dropped all charges against Al-Arian.[31]

PIJ have allegedly used minors for its operations. On 29 March 2004, 15-year-old Tamer Khuweir of Rifidia, a suburb of Palestinian city Nablus in the West Bank, was captured by Israeli forces as he planned to carry out a suicide mission. His older brother claimed he was brainwashed and demanded the Palestinian Authority investigate the incident and arrest those responsible for it.[32]

Following further terrorist attacks on civilians in Israel, Shalah and Awda were indicted under United States law and added in 2006 to the United States FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list.[33]

In February 2012, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip distanced itself from PIJ. During the March 2012 Gaza–Israel clashes, which followed the Israeli assassination of Popular Resistance Committees leader, Zuhir al-Qaisi, who bragged of kidnapping Gilad Shalit, PIJ and PRC opened attacks on Israel. Hamas refrained from joining PIJ and PRC in attacking Israel.[34] Over a hundred Palestinians were killed or injured in the ensuing violence, but Israel did not attack any Hamas targets at the time.[35] The eventual ceasefire was negotiated between Israel and the militant groups, not Hamas.

London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported in May 2015 that Iran had stopped funding PIJ due to the group's neutrality over the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, throwing PIJ into a severe financial crisis. Iran had expected PIJ to condemn the intervention led by Saudi Arabia, Iran's chief regional rival. Palestinian newspaper al-Quds reported that Iran is now supporting an offshoot of PIJ called as-Sabirin (Arabic for "the patient ones"), headed by Islamic Jihad veteran Hisham Salem.[36]

Under the former leadership of Ramadan Shalah, the group would receive approximately US$70 million per year from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran.[37]

Ideology, motives and beliefs

Ramadan Shalah was interviewed by Scott Atran and Robert Axelrod in Damascus, Syria, on 15 December 2009. In the interview, he said that hope for a two-state solution was gone and that there was little international support for a one-state solution in which "Palestinians have rights in all of historic Palestine". Thus he advocated for armed struggle until Israel's defeat.[38]

We are the indigenous people of the land. I was born in Gaza. My family, brothers and sisters, live in Gaza. But I am not allowed to visit them. But any American or Siberian Jew is allowed to take our land. There is no possibility today of a two-state solution. That idea is dead. And there is no real prospect of a one-state solution...

I will never, under any conditions, accept the existence of the state of Israel. I have no problem living with the Jewish people...

We have lived together in peace for centuries. And if Netanyahu were to ask if we can live together in one state, I would say to him: "If we have exactly the same rights as Jews to come to all of Palestine. If Khaled Meshaal and Ramadan Shalah can come whenever they want, and visit Haifa, and buy a home in Herzliyah if they want, then we can have a new language, and dialogue is possible."[38]

In 2009 interview with Al-Jazeera, PIJ leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah rejected the two-state solution, said "the one-state solution is better than the two-state solution" and accused the Palestinian Authority of being complicit with the Israeli occupation.[39]

In a 2002 book, Yonah Alexander wrote that PIJ calls for the destruction of Israel, rejects the option of a peaceful settlement with Israel, and advocates the use of guerrilla tactics to achieve that aim. Israel's eradication is viewed as an essential prerequisite for addressing the challenges facing the Muslim world. It envisions laying the groundwork for a future scenario in which a significant Islamic Arabic army engages in military confrontation to achieve Israel's destruction. The PIJ has been accountable for some of the deadliest suicide attacks in Israel.[40]

The group is a Sunni Jihadist movement but includes other religious beliefs.[41]


Militant activities

Training of al-Quds Brigades snipers in Gaza, 25 December 2013
Al-Quds Brigades weapons exhibition/parade, Gaza Strip, 7 January 2022

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for many militant activities over the years and is responsible for more than 30 suicide bombings.[42][better source needed] The international community considers the use of indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations[43] and the use of human shields[44][45] as illegal under international law.[46]

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad pledges that armed resistance will continue as long as Israel maintains the occupation and conducts military operations against Palestinians.[47] Nonetheless it states "the decision to end resistance belongs to that of the people". PIJ has employed suicide bombing as a tactic in realization that Palestinian military capabilities are outmatched by Israeli sophisticated weaponry.[47] It's objectives are to "maximum[ize] amount of loss to the Israeli military".[47] PIJ states that their policy is that targeting innocent civilians is prohibited.[47] However, it allows for targeting Israeli civilians in response to Israeli targeting of Palestinian civilians. Nevertheless, PIJ states that in such scenarios they prioritize targeting the Israeli military over targeting civilians. Finally, PIJ states they reject any use of force against non-Israelis.[47]

List of attacks

  • August 1987: The PIJ claimed responsibility for a shooting that killed the commander of the Israeli military police in the Gaza Strip.[7]
  • July 1989: Attack of Egged bus 405 along the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv highway, at least 14 people killed (including two Canadians and one American) and dozens more wounded. Though intended to be a suicide attack, the perpetrator survived.[48]
  • 4 February 1990: A bus carrying Israeli tourists in Egypt was attacked. The attack left 11 people, including 9 Israelis, dead and 17 others injured.[49]
  • February 1992: in Night of the Pitchforks, killed three Israeli soldiers asleep in their base, using knives, axes and a pitchfork
  • 6 April 1992: an Israeli Army convoy was ambushed in Hula, South Lebanon. Two soldiers were killed and 5 wounded. The target had been Major-General Yitzhak Mordechai, head of Israel's Northern Command. But he had left the convoy earlier. Three of the attackers were killed.[50]
  • December 1993: Killed an Israeli reservist, David Mashrati, during a public bus shooting.
  • April 1994: A car bomb aboard a public bus killed 9 people and injured 50.
  • January 1995: Bomb attack near Netanya killing eighteen soldiers and one civilian.[24]
  • April 1995: Bomb Attack in Netzarim and Kfar Darom. The first bomb killed 8 people including American student, Alisa Flatow, and injured over 30 on an Israel bus; the second attack was a car bomb that injured 12 people.[51]
  • March 1996: A Tel Aviv shopping mall is the site of another bombing killing 20 and injuring 75.[52]
  • November 2000: A car bomb in Jerusalem at an outdoor market killed 2 people and injured 10.[53]
  • March 2002: A bomb killed seven people and injured approximately thirty aboard a bus travelling from Tel Aviv to Nazareth.[53]
  • June 2002: Eighteen people are killed and fifty injured in an attack at the Megiddo Junction.[24]
  • July 2002: A double attack in Tel Aviv killed five people and injured 40.
  • November 2002: 12 soldiers and security personnel killed in an ambush in Hebron.[54]
    After the Afula mall bombing, PIJ stated that the suicide bomber was a 19-year-old Palestinian female student named Hiba Daraghmeh
  • May 2003: Three people killed and eighty-three injured in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Afula.
  • August 2003: A bomber killed 21 people and injured more than 100 people on a bus in Jerusalem.[53]
  • October 2003: A bomb killed 22 and injured 60 at a Haifa restaurant.
  • October 2005: A bomb detonated in a Hadera market was responsible for killing seven people and injuring 55, five of them severely.
  • April 2006: A bomb in a Tel Aviv eatery killed eleven and injured 70.
  • January 2007: Both the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and the PIJ claim responsibility for a suicide bombing at an Eilat bakery that killed three.[24]
  • June 2007, in a failed assault on an IDF position at the Kissufim crossing between Gaza and Israel in a possible attempt to kidnap IDF soldiers, four armed members of the al-Quds Brigades (the military wing of Islamic Jihad) and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (the military wing of Fatah) allegedly used a vehicle marked with "TV" and "PRESS" insignias penetrated the border fence and assaulted a guard tower in what Islamic Jihad and the army said was a failed attempt to capture an Israeli soldier.[55] IDF troops killed one militant, while the others escaped. The use of a vehicle that resembled a press vehicle evoked a sharp response from many journalists and news organizations. The Middle East director for Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitsonn responded, "Using a vehicle with press markings to carry out a military attack is a serious violation of the laws of war, and it also puts journalists at risk."[56] The FPA responded by saying,

Armored vehicles marked with TV are an invaluable protection for genuine journalists working in hostile environments. The FPA has long campaigned for the continued availability of armored vehicles for its members, despite official opposition in some quarters. The abuse of this recognized protection for the working journalist is a grave development and we condemn those that carried it out. Such an incident will reduce the protection offered by marked vehicles.[55]

During a press conference, an Islamic Jihad spokesperson Abu Ahmed denied that they had put press markings on the jeep used in the attack and said, "The Al-Quds Brigades used an armoured jeep resembling military armoured jeeps used by the Zionist intelligence services."[57]
  • On 26 March 2009, two Islamic Jihad members were imprisoned for a conspiracy "to murder Israeli pilots and scientists using booby-trapped toy cars".[58]
  • On 15 November 2012, Islamic Jihad fired two Fajr-5s at Tel Aviv from Gaza, one landing in an uninhabited area of the suburbs and the other in the sea.[59]
  • On 24 June 2013, six rockets were fired into Israel; major news outlets reported that the Islamic Jihad were behind the attacks.[60][61][62][63]
  • In March 2014 over 100 rockets were launched into southern Israel by PIJ and other Islamist groups. On 14 March Shalah announced that the attack was coordinated with Hamas.[64]

Islamic Jihad has also deployed its own rocket, similar to the Qassam rocket used by Hamas, called the al-Quds rocket.

Social services

Islamic Jihad also control dozens of religious organizations in the Palestinian territories that are registered as NGOs and operate mosques, schools, and medical facilities that offer free services.[65] Like other Islamic associations, these are heavily scrutinized by the Palestinian National Authority who have shut some of them down.[65] In one Islamic Jihad kindergarten graduation, children dressed up in military uniforms, waved guns, shouted anti-Israel slogans, and spoke of blowing themselves up to kill "Zionists".[66][67]

Islamic Jihad also operates dozens of summer camps for children. They have opened up 51 summer camps which attracted approximately 10,000 children in 2010.

We teach the children the truth. How the Jews persecuted the prophets and tortured them. We stress that the Jews killed and slaughtered Arabs and Palestinians every chance they got. Most important, the children understand that the conflict with the Jews is not over land, but rather over religion. As long as Jews remain here, between the [Jordan] river and the sea, they will be our enemy and we will continue to pursue and kill them. When they leave we won't hurt them.[68]

Notable PIJ members


PIJ's founder Ramadan Shalah (right) and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Tehran, Iran, 14 April 2006
PIJ's Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah (left) with Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, 31 December 2018

Other members

See also


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Further reading