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Top 10 Facts About Islamic Jihad Movement Amid Its Standoff With Israel

by Tim Korso

Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel after the country’s armed forces killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior commander in the organisation, in a strike on his home.

Despite the two sides reportedly negotiating a ceasefire on 14 November, the Israel Defence Forces and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement have continued to exchange strikes for a third day in a row.

Here is what you need to know about Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its history of confrontation with the Jewish state:

Group’s Origins and Goals

  • The group was founded by three Palestinian students, Fathi Shaqaqi, Abdul Aziz Awda, and Bashir Moussa while studying in Egypt in the late 1970s, with the group being formally established in Gaza in 1981.
  • PIJ has as the key goal of its activities the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
  • The organisation has dismissed a diplomatic approach to reaching its goals and opposes the Oslo peace process, opting instead for armed conflict against Israel. For this purpose it established an armed wing called the Al-Quds Brigades in 1981, operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Standoff With Israel

  • The organisation conducted its first successful operation in August 1987, killing an Israeli military police captain. In total, it conducted at least 25 successful attacks over the course of two decades.
  • In its operations, the group has resorted to a variety of tactics, ranging from attacks on Israeli civilians and conducting suicide bombings to firing rockets at the Jewish state.
  • As a result, it has been branded a terrorist organisation by not only Tel Aviv, but also by countries that generally support Israel, such as the US, EU, UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • But as in the case of the 12 November killing of PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata, Islamic Jihad has not always been the initiator of the armed exchanges with Israel. In October 1995, one of PIJ’s founders and then leader Fathi Shaqaqi was assassinated in Malta in an operation largely believed to have been organised by Israel, specifically its intelligence service Mossad.

Group’s Relations With Hamas

  • The group reportedly grew close to the Gaza-based Hamas movement due to some of their goals largely overlapping. PIJ has praised Hamas’ moral and financial “support”.
  • While it’s unclear to what extent the two are cooperating, Islamic Jihad deployed its al-Quds 101 Rocket a few years after Hamas had done so with its Qassam rocket, which is similar in design to the one used by PIJ.
  • But PIJ and Hamas have not always acted in tandem. In February 2012, when PIJ participated in clashes with Israel from the Gaza Strip, Hamas did not support their attacks.