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Palestinian Islamic Jihad - Jihad Islami

(also known as Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini)


Source: International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism

Under this name several radical Palestinian Islamic factions were active from 1979 on in the Territories, mainly under the influence of the Iranian Islamic revolution and the growing Islamic militancy in the region.

The PIJ Fathi Shqaqi faction has in recent years become the most prominent Palestinian terrorist group to adopt the Islamic Jihad ideology. It views Israel, the “Zionist Jewish entity”, as the main enemy of the Muslim Brothers and the first target for destruction. Thus, it calls for an Islamic armed struggle and strives for the liberation of all of Palestine.  This is to be accomplished by guerilla groups, led by a revolutionary vanguard, which carry out terrorist attacks aimed at weakening Israel. Its militants see themselves as those who lay the groundwork for the day when the great Islamic Arabic army will be able to destroy Israel in a military confrontation.

In the 1980s the group was involved both in subversive and terrorist activity in the Territories and prior to the Intifada carried out several terrorist attacks in the Gaza Strip. At the beginning of the Intifada it numbered some 250 militants and several hundred sympathizers in the universities and the young activists around the mosques. In August 1988 the group's leaders were expelled to Lebanon, where Shqaqi reorganized the faction and strengthened its ties with the Hizballah and Iran.

The faction was behind several of the deadliest terrorist suicide attacks carried on in Israel by the radical Islamic organizations in 1995-1997. Fathi Shqaqi was killed by unknown assailants in October 1995 in Malta.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini) was founded in 1979-80 by Palestinian students in Egypt, who had split from the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip. The founders were highly influenced by the Islamic revolution in Iran on the one and hand, and the radicalization and militancy of Egyptian Islamic student organizations, on the other.

The founders - Fathi Shqaqi, `Abd al-`Aziz `Odah and Bashir Musa - were disappointed by the supposed moderation of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and what they considered the neglect by the Egyptian Islamists of the priority that should be given to the Palestinian problem. Shqaqi and Musa, therefore, proposed a new ideological program, which became the basis for the new organization. They claimed that the unity of the Islamic world was not a precondition for the liberation of Palestine, but on the contrary, the liberation of Palestine by the Islamic movements was the key to the unification of the Arab and Islamic world. In other words: the Jihad for the liberation of Palestine by Islamic movements will bring upon the expected Jihad for the reconstruction of the greater and one Islamic state.

The admiration of the three Palestinian militants for the Islamic revolution in Iran was at that time unique of its kind in the Arab world and among the Islamic Sunni movements. Not only did they consider the Iranian revolution as a model for the Arab world, but they accepted the principle of "the leadership of the men of religion" (vilayet-i-faqih) although it was a Shi'ite concept. Shqaqi was also the first in the Arab Sunni world to write, already in March 1979, a book glorifying Khomeini and the Iranian revolution, which was banned by the Egyptian authorities.

This group of Palestinian students maintained close relations with radical Islamic Egyptian students, some of whom were involved in the assassination of president Sadat, in October 1981. As a result, the Palestinian Islamic radicals were expelled from Egypt and returned to the Gaza Strip, where they formally began their activity as an Islamic Jihad organization.

The faction was involved in subversive and terrorist activity in the Territories in the 1980s. During the year 1987, prior to the Intifada, it carried out several terrorist attacks in the Gaza Strip. In August 1988 the two faction`s leaders, Shqaqi and `Odah, were expelled to Lebanon, where Shqaqi reorganized the faction, maintaining close contacts with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit stationed in Lebanon and with Hizballah. Shqaqi expanded the political connections of the faction and became a prominent member of the new Rejection Front which emerged after the Israeli- Palestinian Oslo agreement, under Syrian influence.

Shqaqi was killed in October 1995 in Malta, allegedly by Israeli agents. His successor is Dr. Ramadan `Abdallah Shalah, who has resided several years in Florida, U.S.A, and moved to Damascus at the beginning of 1996. Shalah has not the charisma and the intellectual and organizational skills as Fathi Shqaqi and this has influenced the organization's position and activity.

The group has been active on the political scene in the Territories, mainly in the Gaza Strip, among students and intellectuals. Until the foundation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the Islamic Jihad groups did not have connections to Hamas, and were regarded even as rivals in the Gaza Strip. Since then, and mainly after Hamas switched to the strategy of suicide terrorist bombings, there was some operational cooperation between the two organizations in carrying out attacks like the one in Beit-Lyd, in February 1995, or in coordinating simultaneous terrorist attacks. Shqaqi 's death undermined the PIJ's position in the Territories and Hamas no longer sees it as a threatening rival.

The group has offices in Beirut, Damascus, Tehran and Khartoum, but its activity is focused in Lebanon, where there are several tens of Palestinian members. It has some influence in the Gaza Strip, mainly in the Islamic University, but not in a way that can endanger the dominant position of Hamas as the leading Islamic Palestinian organization.

During the 1980s several other groups of Palestinian Islamic Jihad were formed, but the main faction which has survived is the group founded by Shqaqi.

The Islamic Jihad Organization - the al-Aqsa Battalions (Munazzamat al-Jihad al-Islami - Kata’ib al-Aqsa) was founded under the religious guidance of Sheikh `As`ad Bayyud al-Tamimi in Jordan in 1982, with the support of Fatah activists. It has carried out its first terrorist operation already in October 1983, by killing an Israeli citizen in Hebron. The faction has tried to carry out other operations in the 1980s but failed. During the Intifada it became active under the name of the “Islamic Jihad Organization - the al-Aqsa Battalions”. Some of its activists maintained good relations both with Iran and Sudan. Its religious leader, `As`ad al-Tamimi, was also a supporter of the Iranian revolution, and was arrested or confined several times by the Jordanian authorities. Formally the group is still active in Jordan, but has no supporters in the Territories.

The Islamic Jihad - The Temple (al-Jihad al-Islami - Bait al-Maqdas) was founded in the early 1980s by the “Western Sector” apparatus of Fatah, headed by Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad). It was composed of Fatah terrorist activists from “The Students Committee”, who carried out an important terrorist attack in Hebron on April 1, 1980, killing six Israelis leaving a synagogue. Later on the activists of that committee turned to religion and formed the group which was called “The Islamic Jihad - The Temple”. The group was led by Bassem Sultan, Marwan al-Kayali and Muhammad Bkheis, who were killed by a car bomb in Lymassol, Cyprus on February 1988. The faction's ideologue was Munir Shafiq, who also had pro-Iranian affiliations. It was the first Palestinian Islamic group that staged a terrorist attack prior to the Intifada, by throwing hand grenades on Israeli soldiers and their families during a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on October 15 , 1986. The faction had very few militants in the Territories.

The Islamic Jihad Squad (Tanzim al-Jihad al-Islami) was a small group of Islamic Jihad militants led by Ahmad Muhanna. These militants were imprisoned in Israel for violent activities in the framework of a PLO off-shoot, the Palestinian Popular Liberation Forces (Quwat Tahrir al-Sha`biyyah al-Filastiniyyah), who became Islamists in the late 1970s under the leadership of Jaber `Ammar. Ahmad Muhanna split from this group and during the 1980s was active mainly from Sudan and was also involved in Islamist militant activity in Egypt. The faction carried out a terrorist attack in Egypt against an Israeli tourist bus in Northern Sinai, on February 4, 1990.


Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini, better known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was formed in 1979 by Islamic fundamentalist Fathi Shaqaqi and other radical Palestinian students in Egypt who had split from the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip whom they deemed too moderate. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran influenced the group's founder, Shaqaqi, who believed the liberation of Palestine would unite the Arab and Muslim world into a single great Islamic state. Today, PIJ is committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through a jihad (holy war).

The Egyptian government expelled the PIJ to the Gaza Strip after learning of their close relations with radical Egyptian students who assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Still, PIJ members remained active in Egypt, attacking a tour bus in Egypt in February 1990 that killed 11 people, including nine Israelis. PIJ agents were arrested in Egypt in September 1991 while attempting to enter the country to conduct terrorism.

The PIJ began its terrorist campaign against Israel in the 1980s. In 1987, prior to the intifada, it carried out several terrorist attacks in the Gaza Strip. In August 1988, the faction`s leaders, Shaqaqi and `Abd al-`Aziz `Odah, were expelled to Lebanon, where Shaqaqi reorganized the faction, maintaining close contacts with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit stationed in Lebanon and with Hizballah. Although several other factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad were formed in the 1980s, the main faction remains the group founded by Shaqaqi. After the 1993 Olso Peace Accords between Israeli and the Palestinians, Shaqaqi expanded the political connections of the organization to become a member of the new Syrian influenced Rejection Front.

PIJ and Hamas (The Islamic Resistance Movement), a separate Palestinian terrorist organization, were regarded as rivals in the Gaza Strip until after the foundation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994 when Hamas adopted the strategy suicide terrorist bombings. Since then, there has been some operational cooperation between the two organizations in carrying out attacks like the one in Beit-Lid, in February 1995, where two suicide bombers killed eight Israelis and wounded 50.

When PIJ leader Shaqaqi was killed in October 1995 in Malta, allegedly by Israeli agents, the PIJ position among Palestinian terrorist organizations dipped because his successor, Ramadan Abdallah Muhammad Shalah, who lived in the United States for several years, lacked Shaqaqi's charisma and intellectual and organizational skills. That did not stop PIJ's terror campaign, however, which included the March 1996 suicide bombing of the Dizengoff Center in downtown Tel Aviv, which killed 20 civilians and wounded more than 75, including two Americans.

The group is currently based in Damascus and its financial backing is believed to come from there and Iran. PIJ also has offices in Beirut, Tehran and Khartoum. It has some influence in the Gaza Strip, mainly in the Islamic University, but not in a way that can endanger the dominant position of Hamas as the leading Islamic Palestinian organization. Unlike Hamas, PIJ has no social or political role in the PA.

Aside from Israel, PIJ also considers 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.

Since September 2000, PIJ has been responsible for scores of terrorist attacks, including 15 suicide and car bombings, which have claimed the lives of more than 25 Israelis and wounded almost 400. 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."

Pictured above is the emblem of Islamic Jihad. In the center, on a background of the Dome of the Rock, the map of greater Palestine is represented flanked by assault rifles. Above it and between the rifles appears the inscription Allah huAkbar [“Allah is Great,” the famous Islamic battle cry and usually the last words of a suicide bomber]. It is an excellent example of the radical Islamic religious message promulgated by the organization, whose goals are the destruction of the State of Israel (which they refer to as “the full liberation of the Palestinian lands”) by means of an armed and uncompromising jihad (holy war) and the establishment of a religious Islamic Palestinian state in its place.


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