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The emblem of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad shows a map of the old British Mandate of Palestine, superimposed on the images of the Dome of the Rock, two fists and two rifles.

The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (Arabic: حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين‎, Harakat al-Jihād al-Islāmi fi Filastīn) known in the West as simply Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), is a small Palestinian militant organization.[1] The group has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States[2], the European Union[3], the United Kingdom[4], Japan[5], Canada[6], Australia[7] and Israel. Their goal is the destruction of the state of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic state.[8]


History and Background

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad was created after many members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood found that the organization was becoming too moderate and did not commit enough effort to the Palestinian struggle.[9] So in the late 1970s, the founders of the PIJ, Fathi Shaqaqi and Abd al-Aziz Awda created the group to fight for the sovereignty of Palestine and the destruction of Israel.[10] Shaqaqi and Awda conducted operations out of Egypt until 1981 when group was exiled after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. The PIJ continued its work in Gaza until it was exiled to Lebanon in 1987. While in Lebanon, the group was able to receive training from Hezbollah and ultimately developed a close relationship with the Lebanese organization. While in Lebanon, the PIJ adopted the use of suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism as their principle method of achieving their goals.[11] In 1989, the PIJ moved its operation to Damascus where it remains to this day.[12]

The group is currently based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, but there are also offices in Beirut, Tehran and Khartoum[13] Its financial backing is believed to come from Syria and Iran. The group operates primarily in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but has also carried out attacks in Jordan and Lebanon. Its main strongholds in the West Bank are the cities of Hebron and Jenin. The PIJ has approximately 50 to 200 members as well as recruiting suicide bombers and volunteers. Because of its small size, the PIJ is unable to run large scale training camps so instead they rely heavily on other organizations such as Hezbollah for support.[14]

Islamic Jihad has much in common with Hamas. They both work towards the destruction of Israel as a state as well as restoring the “true faith” to the Muslim world. The distinction between the groups comes in the order of these priorities. “The Islamic Brotherhood, like many other fundamentalist Islamic movements, sees jihad as a general duty of all Muslims and proposed that first ‘proper Islam’ should be established throughout the Muslim world. Only after the primary goal is achieved, violent jihad should be directed against Israel. In contrast, the irredentist Hamas movement switched the two priorities. It maintained that first jihad should be directed at liberating all of Palestine, and then Muslims should direct their attention to the goal of restoring the ‘true faith’ to the rest of the Islamic world.”[15] Both groups were formed as offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood and receive a large amount of funding from Iran.[16] With similar goals, Hamas and the PIJ have worked together on a number of attacks on Israel including a suicide bombing in Beit-Lid in February 1995 that killed eight Israelis and wounded fifty.[17]

Fathi Shaqaqi led the organization for two decades until his death in in Malta in October 1995 by an unknown party. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad often attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli targets on the anniversary of his death, although the identity of the assassins was never determined.

During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, beginning in September 2000, the PIJ committed many suicide bombing attacks against Israelis. Many of the attacks in 2001 and 2002 came from the PIJ in Jenin, headed by Mahmoud Tawallbe, Ali Sefoori and Tabeth Mardawi. The headquarters of the PIJ in Jenin and the West Bank was seriously damaged during Operation Defensive Shield: Tawallbe was killed by an IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer while Sefoori and Mardawi were arrested by Israel security forces.

On February 20, 2003, University of South Florida computer engineering professor Dr. Sami Al-Arian was arrested after being indicted on 50 terrorism-related charges. 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 December 6, 2005, Al-Arian was acquitted on 8 of the 17 charges against him, and the jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts 10–2. Then on March 2, 2006, Al-Arian entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to help the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a "specially designated terrorist" organization. [18] Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison, given credit for time served, and ordered deported following his prison term.[19] In November 2006 he was found guilty of civil contempt for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. He served 13 months in prison on that conviction. In March 2008, the United States Department of Justice subpoenaed Al-Arian to testify before a grand jury. He refused to testify, and prosecutors charged him with criminal contempt in June 2008.[20][21] On September 2, 2008, Al-Arian was released from detention on bond.[22] He remains under house arrest, as he awaits a trial on criminal contempt charges.[23][24]

Islamic Jihad is alleged to have used teens as suicide bombers. On March 29, 2004, 16-year-old Tamer Khuweir in Rifidia, an Arab suburb of Nablus was apprehended by Israeli security forces as he prepared to carry out a suicide attack. His older brother claimed he was brainwashed to do it by an Islamic Jihad cleric and demanded the Palestinian Authority investigate the incident and arrest those responsible for it.[citation needed]

After Shaqaqi's death, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been led since 1995 by fellow founder Sheikh Abdullah Ramadan Shallah, aka Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, who was then listed as a "Specially Designated Terrorist" under United States law on November 27, 1995, and subsequently was indicted on RICO charges, and consequently became one of the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists on February 24, 2006.

The PIJ’s main target is Israel but they also see the United States and Western Secularism as an enemy. The PIJ “considered the United States an enemy because of its support for Israel. The PIJ also opposes moderate Arab governments that it believes have been tainted by Western secularism and has carried out attacks in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.[25]

Israeli response

The Israeli response has been to use targeted assassination.[26][27] Targeted individuals are killed, though there are often non-combatant casualties as well.

Militant activities

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for many militant activities over the years. The organization is responsible for a number of attacks including more than 30 completed suicide bombings. “On December 22, 2001, despite a declaration by Hamas to halt suicide bombings inside Israel, in response to a crackdown on militants by Yassir Arafat, PIJ vowed to continue its terror campaign. PIJ’s representative in Lebanon, Abu Imad Al Rifai, told Reuters, ‘Our position is to continue. We have no other choice. We are not willing to compromise.’”[28] The Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the following attacks:

  • August 1987: The PIJ claimed responsibility for a shooting that killed the commander of the Israeli military police in the Gaza Strip.[1]
  • 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.[29]
  • December 1993: Killed an Israeli reservist, David Mashrati, during a public bus shooting.
  • April 1994: A car bomb aboard a public bus killed nine people and injured fifty.
  • January 1995: Suicide bombing attack near Netanya killing eighteen soldiers and one civilian.[30]
  • April 1995: Suicide bomb in Netzarim and Kfar-Darom. The first bomb killed eight people and injured over 30 on an Israel bus. The second attack was a car bomb that injured twelve people.
  • March 1996: A Tel Aviv shopping mall is the site of another suicide bombing killing twenty and injuring seventy five.
  • November 2000: A car bomb in Jerusalem at an outdoor market killed two people and injured ten.[31]
  • June 2001: Suicide bomb attack at a Tel Aviv nightclub killing twenty-one people.[32]
  • March 2002: A suicide bomber killed seven people and injured approximately thirty aboard a bus travelling from Tel Aviv to Nazareth.[33]
  • June 2002: Eighteen people are killed and fifty injured in a suicide attack at the Meggido Junction.[34]
  • July 2002: A double suicide attack killed five people and injured 40 in Tel Aviv.
  • May 2003: Three people killed and eighty-three injured in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Afula.
  • August 2003: A suicide bomber killed twenty-one people and injured over one hundred on a bus in Jerusalem.[36]
  • October 2003: Suicide bomber killed twenty-two and injured sixty at a Haifa restaurant.
  • October 2005: A bomb detonated in a Hedera market was responsible for killing five people.
  • April 2006: Suicide bomb in Tel Aviv killed eleven.
  • January 2007: Both the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the PIJ claim responsibility for a suicide bombing at an Eliat bakery that killed three.[37]
  • On June 9, 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) 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.[38] 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 by saying, “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.”[39] 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."[38]

    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."[40]
  • On March 26, 2009, two Islamic Jihad terrorists were imprisoned for a conspiracy "to murder Israeli pilots and scientists using booby-trapped toy cars."[41]

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

Notable members

See also


  1. ^ a b BBC Who are Islamic Jihad? 9 June 2003
  2. ^ US - Office of Counterterrorism
  3. ^ List of organisations recognized as terrorist groups
  4. ^ UK home office
  5. ^ MoFA Japan
  6. ^ Public safety Canada
  7. ^ Australian national security
  8. ^ Interview with the General Secretary of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine: Dr. Fathi Shikaki
  9. ^ Esposito, John, ed. (2003), "Islamic Jihad of Palestine", The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195125584, 
  10. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  11. ^ "The Listing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)". Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  12. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  13. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  14. ^ "The Listing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)". Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  15. ^ "Suicide Bombing as a Strategic Weapon: An Empirical Investigation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  16. ^ "Suicide Bombing as a Strategic Weapon: An Empirical Investigation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  17. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  18. ^ "Plea Agreement; U.S. v. Al-Arian". February 28, 2006. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  19. ^ MegLaughlin, In his plea deal, what did Sami Al-Arian admit to?, St. Petersberg Times, April 23, 2006.
  20. ^ Al-Arian Gets Federal Subpoena, Elaine Silvestrini, March 4, 2008.
  21. ^ Elaine Silvestrini, Al-Arian Arraigned On Contempt Charges, Tampa Tribune, June 30, 2008.
  22. ^ BREAKING: Sami Al-Arian Released on Bond.
  23. ^ Joseph Goldstein, Al-Arian Is Freed, but More Charges Await, New York Sun, September 3, 2008.
  24. ^ Judge sets trial for Sami Al-Arian on criminal contempt charge, Tampa Tribune, January 17, 2009.
  25. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  26. ^ HaaretzIsrael targets senior Hamas, Islamic Jihad commanders in fresh Gaza strikes 30 December 2008
  27. ^ BBC Air raids kill militants in Gaza 5 March 2009
  28. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  29. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  30. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  31. ^ "The Listing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)". Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  32. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  33. ^ "The Listing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)". Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  34. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  35. ^ New York Times 12 Israelis Killed in Hebron Ambush Near Prayer Site By James Bennet 12 November 2002
  36. ^ "The Listing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)". Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  37. ^ "Palestinian Islamic Jihad". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  38. ^ a b Press slams gunmen for using TV jeep | Jerusalem Post
  39. ^ Gaza: Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes (Human Rights Watch, 13-6-2007)
  40. ^ Journalists slam use of 'press vehicle' by Gaza militants
  41. ^ Stoil, Rebecca Anna. "Two Islamic Jihad conspirators jailed." Jerusalem Post. 26 March 2009. 27 March 2009.
  42. ^ Brother slams Palestinian militants for luring teenager into suicide mission
  43. ^ SFT: Samtal med en terrorist
  44. ^ Blast kills senior Gaza militant BBC News
  45. ^ Senior Jihad man, 14 others die in IDF strikes, Ynet, 29-12-2008
  46. ^ IAF kills senior Islamic Jihad commander, JPost, 04-03-2009

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