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Islamic Jihad -- A profile of Palestinian Islamic Jihad



Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

In Arabic: Harakat Al Jihad Al Islami Fi Filastin (Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine).

Founded In:

1981. PIJ was founded by Shaykh Abd Al Aziz Awda and Fathi Shiqaqi. Shiqaqi was assassinated in 1995, in Malta, probably by Israeli agents.

Home Base:

PIJ has been based in Damascus, Syria since 1989. PIJ was originally based in Egypt, later moved to the Gaza Strip and, following its exile from Gaza in the late 1980s, it was moved to Lebanon, then later to Damascus.

PIJ operates in the Palestinian territories, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Backing & Affiliations :

PIJ receives essential support from Syria, which permits it sanctuary and from Iran, which provides significant funding (and, according to some sources, nearly the entirety of PIJ's budget).


The establishment of a Palestinian Islamic state. PIJ presumes that armed conflict alone will bring about a solution to the Palestinian problem and maintains a jihadist ideology. PIJ opposes Arab governments it sees as corrupt.

PIJ's focus on the Palestinian cause before the Islamic cause also reflects a distinctive turn in Islamist thought of the 1970s. At that time, other jihadist movements believed that a pan-Islamic revolution should and would have to precede uniting Palestine. PIJ reversed this thinking, and focused first on the Palestinian cause as the catalyst for pan-Islamist revolution.


By most estimates, PIJ is a small group with followers numbering in the hundreds. It is organized primarily to carry out armed attacks, but does maintain a few civilian societies that provide services to youth and women.

Notable Attacks:

Islamic Jihad is among the organizations known for using suicide bombingas one of its key tactics. Unlike groups such as Hamas, PIJ has so far not participated in discussions of possible cease-fires, and continues to carry out attacks. At the end of December, 2006, PIJ fired rockets on Israeli targets in Gaza, despite a truce there, in order to provoke Israeli retaliation. According to PIJ members, it was hoped the attacks would unite Palestinian groups enmeshed in fighting between themselves, against the common enemy, Israel.
  • April 9, 1995: Two suicide attacks, both using rigged cars as weapons, exploded on Jewish settlements in Gaza, killing eight and injuring 42.
  • May 2001: Stoned to death two boys kidnapped from a West Bank settlement.
  • October 4, 2003: a suicide bomber exploded herself at Maxim restaurant in Haifa, injuring 60 and killing 21.

Historical Context:

Palestinian Islamic Jihad emerged out of a period in which Arab Muslims were concerned with the Palestinian cause and with a revolution that they hoped would bring changes to Arab countries with deep divisions between rich and poor, limited political freedom and minimal autonomy, after many years of Western imperialism. Several of these ideas fused in PIJ to create a unique ideology combining Palestinian nationalism, pan-Islamism and the sanction of armed struggle to achieve its ends.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt impressed the founders of PIJ in the 1970s. (The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928. It believes that Islam could solve social ills that neither socialist nor capitalist systems could.) In the 1970s, other militant Islamist groups condoning terrorist violence, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, emerged.

The 1979 Iranian revolution was also influential. It demonstrated that a successful revolution could be carried out in an Islamic idiom.

Last, but not least, PIJ was founded in the interests of Palestinian nationalism. Its Islamist focus was unusual in the 1970s, when the ideas of secular groups (such as Fatah), or Marxist groups (such as the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine) dominated the understanding of how Palestinians would solve their national crisis.

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