Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
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Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini
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.
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Dr. Fathi Abd al-Aziz Shqaqi was born in the Gaza Strip in January 1951. Shqaqi finished B.A. studies in mathematics at Bir-Zeit University, in the West Bank and in 1974 went to Egypt to study medicine at Zaqaziq University. He became active in the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, but in 1974 left the organization because of ideological disputes.
Immediately after Khomeini's rise to power in 1979, Shqaqi wrote a pamphlet entitled "Khomeini: The Islamic Solution and the Alternative", in which he expressed his support for the Islamic revolution and praised Khomeini's position in regard to the unification of the two branches of Islam, the Sunna and the Shi'ia. Shqaqi's book was prohibited and he himself was arrested for three months by the Egyptian authorities.
In 1980 Shqaqi returned to Gaza and began to organize a group of young Islamic radicals, mostly students who were expelled from Egypt due to their subversive Islamic militancy.
Dr. Ramadan `Abdallah Shalah, born in the in the Saja`iyah refugee camp in Gaza Strip, was one of the first militants in the PIJ and was close to Fathi Shqaqi.
He went to study in London and was appointed head of PIJ's office there. From there he handled PIJ's military, propaganda and information activity in the Territories. Shalah finished a doctorate thesis in Islamic economics at the University of Durnham in UK.
In 1990 he went to the United States to teach Middle east courses at the South Florida University in Tampa, were he became also director of the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a think tank on Muslim religious and political issues connected with the PIJ. After Shqaqi's killing in October 1995, `Abdallah Shalah became the head of the PIJ faction.
Sheikh `As`ad Bayyud al-Tamimi, the scion of a distinguished Hebron family, was born in 1924 and finished his law studies at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo in 1949. Tamimi began his political activity in the 1950s in the framework of the Muslim Brotherhood, but later left them because they did not accept the priority of the Palestinian problem. He was then one of the founders of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami), an extremist pan-Islamic organization whose base was in Jordan. He served in the 1960s as imam of al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. He was expelled by Israel to Jordan in 1969 due to his radical sermons at the al-Aqsa mosque.
After the Iranian Islamic revolution, apparently with the Iranian's government blessing and in cooperation with Fatah, he began to recruit young Palestinians - including active Fatah members - for the new Islamic Jihad organization. According to him only later Shqaqi, Muhanna, and others split from the organization in 1980. In 1989 Tamimi called his faction The Islamic Jihad - al-Aqsa Battalions. Tamimi lives in Jordan.
Sheikh Tamimi wrote in 1984 a book entitled "The disappearance of Israel - a ruling of the Koran", in which he tries to prove the importance given in the Koran to Palestine and that the Jihad in Palestine is bound not only to bring back the Holy Land to Muslim sovereignty, but also to banish all presence of the infidel Jews.
Ahmad Hassan Muhanna was born in Khan Yunes and became an officer in the PLO's Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA). He was jailed in Israel for his terrorist activity and there became an extremist Islamist. He was liberated in the framework of an exchange of prisoners in 1985. He continued his terrorist activity in relation with Jaber `Ammar's faction and was expelled to Lebanon in 1988.
Sheikh Jaber `Ammar, from the Gaza Strip, was sentenced to life prison for terrorist activity at the beginning of the 1970s. He was the first to form a group of Islamic radicals inside the Israeli prison. `Ammar was released in 1983 as a result of an exchange of prisoners and went to Egypt, but he was expelled by the Egyptian authorities for his subversive activity against the regime. Later on he left for Sudan, from where he continued his terrorist and subversive activities against Israel and Egypt.
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August 1987 - Cpt. Ron Tal, commander of the military police in the Gaza Strip was shot in his car in the main street in Gaza by a member of PIJ's Shqaqi faction.
October 9, 1993 - Dror Forer and Aran Bachar were murdered by terrorists in Wadi Kelt in the Judea Desert. The Popular Front and the Islamic Jihad 'Al-Aqsa Squads' each publicly claimed responsibility.
November 17, 1993 - Sgt. 1st Cl. Chaim Darina, age 37, was stabbed by Gazan terrorist while seated at the cafeteria at the Nahal Oz road block at the entrance to the Gaza Strip. The perpetrator was apprehended. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the murder.
December 5, 1993 - David Mashrati, a reserve soldier, was shot and killed by a terrorist attempting to board a bus on route 641 at the Holon junction. The Islamic Jihad Shqaqi group claimed responsibility for the attack.
February 9, 1994 - Ilan Sudri, a taxi driver, was kidnapped and murdered while returning home from work. The Islamic Jihad Shqaqi group sent a message to the news agencies claiming responsibility for the murder.
November 11, 1994 - Capt. Yehazkel Sapir, 36, of Kfar Sava; Lt. Yotam Rahat, 31, of Tel-Aviv; and Capt. Elad Dror, 24, of Kibbutz Nachson were killed at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip when a Palestinian riding a bicycle detonated explosives strapped to his body. Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attack to avenge the car bomb killing of Islamic Jihad leader Hani Abed on November 2.
January 22, 1995 - Two consecutive bombs exploded at the Beit Lid junction near Netanya, killing 18 soldiers and one civilian. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.