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Palestinian Islamic Jihad

PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD

Militant Palestinian fundamentalist Islamic group (al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini, in Arabic) that grew from an Islamic political current in the occupied Palestinian territories at the end of the 1970s, developed by a radical splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was born of the convergence of three events: the dissolution of the Islamic Liberation Party (ILP), the success of the Iranian revolution, and a split in the Islamic Collective (al-Majmaʿ al-Islami) of Ahmad Ismaʿil Yasin. The PIJ is both a (Sunni) Islamist and a Palestinian nationalist group, and is therefore a descendant of the Islamic Liberation Party of Shaykh Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani.

From its beginnings the PIJ has advocated a jihad ("struggle; holy war" in Arabic) of liberation to create a state in the whole of Palestine, whose capital would be Jerusalem. Several of the early leaders of the PIJ, such as Fathi Shiqaqi, Ramadan Shallah, Abdelaziz Udeh, Muhammad al-Hindi, and Abdallah al-Shami, received a religious education in Egypt. In Jordan, Shaykh Asad Bayud Tamimi, former imam of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and former member of the ILP, made efforts to promulgate the ideas of this movement. The tendency backed by Shaykh Tamimi and his family became known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad–Jerusalem faction. Between 1981 and 1983, Shiqaqi, Udeh, and Munir Shafiq joined the movement, to which they brought a radical nationalist coloring, particularly after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel. Thereafter, an armed branch was formed that conducted operations sometimes claimed in the name of the Islamic Jihad Brigades (Sarayat al-Jihad al-Islami), such as the incident in 1986 when jihadis threw hand grenades at an Israeli military ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasir Arafat, through the mediation of the leadership of the western sector of al-Fatah headed by Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), tried vainly to draw this movement into the ranks of al-Fatah and to convince its directors to join the PLO. At the end of 1987 and beginning of 1988, when the first Intifada was spreading and deepening in intensity, the PIJ and al-Fatah both attempted to take control of the revolt, as did HAMAS, which was formed by a group that broke away from the PIJ. (HAMAS immediately became the larger and more important organization, and remains so into the twenty-first century.) In February, a closer collaboration between their operations was discussed.

About this time, an Israeli commando in Cyprus assassinated three of the principal leaders of the Islamic Jihad Brigades, Bassam Sultan, Hassan Bheiss, and Marwan Kayyali, and then in Tunis, in April, al-Wazir, operations chief of the PLO. Four months later, Shaqaqi and Udeh were expelled by Israeli authorities to Lebanon. The development of the Intifada in the Occupied Territories, which PIJ claimed credit for, plus the expulsion of several dozen Islamic leaders to Lebanon, added to the popularity of the movement in the Palestinian population, and allowed the PIJ to obtain financial aid from Iran and Saudi Arabia. In Lebanon, the leaders of the PIJ developed contacts with fundamentalist pro-Iranian groups such as Hizbullah, as well as with radical Palestinian movements based in that country, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP–GC). In concert with Iranian leaders, the PIJ decided to create an organization meant to unite the diverse Palestinian Islamist groups. During August 1989 divergences between these different currents gave rise to two new movements: the Islamic Combatant Orientation (ICO; al-Ittihad al-Islami al-Mujahid), headed by Munir Shafiq, and the Palestinian Hizbullah, led by Sayed Baraka and Ahmed Mehanna, backed by Iran. Fathi Shiqaqi, editor of the weekly al-Mujahid and one of the founders of the PIJ, belonged to the latter movement. Rapidly, new divergences surfaced in the Palestinian Hizbullah, from then on in abeyance. Faced with this situation, Shaykh Tamimi, in Jordan, lay claim to the leadership of all the Palestinian movements connected to the Jihad, attracting to him a few of its members who were living in Lebanon. During November 1991, Abdelaziz Udeh and Fathi Shiqaqi decided to create the Palestinian Islamic Jihad–Shiqaqi-Udeh Faction in Lebanon, which was better known under the name Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and which became the main organization in the Palestinian Jihad movement. Udeh became the spiritual guide of the movement, while Shaqaqi was its secretary general. At the same time, Munir Shafiq decided to leave Lebanon to go to Jordan, where he joined the ranks of al-Fatah. In December 1992, after the killing of an Israeli frontier guard, the Tel Aviv authorities expelled 415 men suspected of belonging to HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, to Lebanon, which only strengthened the determination of the members of the Jihad to fight against Israel.

In November 1993, opposed to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad–Shiqaqi-Udeh Faction joined the Palestinian opposition in the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF). In 1994 and 1995, Shiqaqi's group organized a number of murderous anti-Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, where the new Palestinian Authority was responsible, in part, for security. On 2 November 1994, one of the most prominent military leaders of Jihad, Hani Abed, was assassinated by the Israelis at Khan Yunis, which led to bloody reprisals on the part of the movement. On 22 January, in the middle of Tel Aviv, a Jihad suicide bomber killed 19 people and wounded more than 60. Within the movement there surfaced tensions caused by an unprecedented problem: the intervention of Palestinian authorities in security matters in the autonomous territories. The latter were accused by some PIJ members of doing the Israelis' work, thereby betraying the Palestinian cause. In March, Shiqaqi was dismissed from his functions as secretary general of the movement. In May, the statements of Shaykh Abdallah al-Shami, in favor of a modification of the means used in the fight against Israel, caused him to be replaced as spokesperson of the movement in Gaza, by Shaykh Nafiz Azzam.

Fearing an infiltration by Palestinian and Israeli security services, the leaders of the movement undertook a significant reorganization. The Jihad office in Iran came under the authority of the Muhammad Saftawi, from a distinguished Palestinian family, and the leadership of the movement in Lebanon was strengthened by Sayed Baraka. The authoritarian methods of Shiqaqi caused a serious dispute between himself and Abdelaziz Udeh, which led to the expulsion of the latter from the PIJ. In September 1995, the dissidents of the PIJ decided to found their own movement, the Palestinian Islamic Front Party, thereby weakening the position of Shiqaqi. On 26 October, passing through Malta, Shiqaqi was assassinated by the Mossad. Three days later, he was replaced by Ramadan Abdallah Shallah. In mid-November 1999, two leaders of the movement, received by the Lebanese prime minister Selim Hoss, declared that the PIJ would no longer launch attacks against Israel from Lebanese soil. This declaration came in the middle of a series of attacks against Israel, attributed to the PIJ, and at a moment when the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, had announced several times that he wanted the IDF to withdraw from South Lebanon by 7 July of the next year. In the autumn of 2000, the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the Occupied Territories prompted the PIJ to pursue and intensify the armed struggle against Israel. Members of the movement, having joined a command group, coordinating the Intifada, carried out a number of bombings, leading to severe reprisals by the IDF, often in the form of "targeted killings."

SEE ALSO Alliance of Palestinian Forces; Fatah, al-; HAMAS; Hizbullah; Intifada (1987–1993); Intifada, al-Aqsa; Mossad; Muslim Brotherhood; Oslo Accords; Palestine Liberation Organization; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command; Shiqaqi, Fathi; Wazir, Khalil al-; Yasin, Ahmad Ismaʿil.

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