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What is Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group financed by Iran?

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Israel claimed that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Gaza-based Islamic terrorist group, was responsible for the airstrike that killed at least 500 Palestinians at a hospital in Gaza City.

Hamas immediately blamed Israel. In response, the Israeli military showed that, based on surveillance and audio recording, a failed rocket from the Palestinian terrorist group targeting Tel Aviv had provoked the strike on al-Ahli Baptist Hospital. Al-Ahli had sheltered injured Palestinians and those seeking refuge in the hospital after Israel asked residents to flee Gaza City ahead of the military invasion.

Who is Islamic Jihad?

Along with Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad is part of a network of terrorist groups on Israel’s borders that carry out acts of terrorism. With around 1,000 members, the PIJ is the second largest, after Hamas, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

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The Islamic terrorist group was founded by Fathi Shaqaqi in 1979, according to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) website. It was subsequently designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department in 1997. As an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the PIJ seeks to establish an Islamist Palestinian state to destroy Israel.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists take part in a rally to celebrate the shootings in Israel, in the Gaza Strip, April 8, 2022. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Based in Lebanon, the PIJ maintains a presence in Gaza, the West Bank and Syria.

Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, classified as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US State Department, is the current leader of the PIJ.

Does Iran Support Islamic Jihad?

The PIJ receives support from Iran, Syria and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. In addition to support, Islamic Jihad draws inspiration from Iran. The group supported the Iranian revolution as a movement to be followed as a model throughout the Muslim world, particularly with regard to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Although a Sunni Muslim group, the PIJ adopted suicide techniques used primarily by Shiite groups in Iran and carried out suicide attacks targeting Israelis.

Shaqaqi, the founder of Islamic Jihad, shared former Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s belief that “Islam was the solution and Jihad was the right way.”

Missile salvo

A salvo of rockets is fired by Palestinian terrorists from Gaza as an Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome system attempts to intercept them, over the southern Israeli town of Netivot, October 8, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, who succeeded Shaqaqi after his assassination in 1995, even held meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran and Damascus.

To this day, Iran remains a significant source of funding for Islamic Jihad.

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As noted in the State Department’s 2021 National Terrorism Reports, Iran has continued to support numerous U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including Islamic Jihad, by providing weapons, financing, and Training. Weapons included rockets and armed unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Hamas killed at least 1,400 Israelis – men, women, children and the elderly – in a surprise terrorist attack on October 7. (Getty)

According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Islamic Jihad attacks bear Iran’s fingerprints everywhere. Although smaller and weaker than Hamas, the group is responsible for deadly attacks in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Iran has been trying for years, especially in recent months, to have a terrorist organization, both Islamic Jihad which is fully supported and financed by Iran, and the Hamas terrorist organization which is also financed but not entirely by Iran. They are calling for them to attack Israel and the Israelis,” Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, told Fox News Digital on the first day of the war between Israel and the Hamas.

Haiat added: “These terrorist organizations (Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) work as proxies of the Ayatollahs’ regime. »

What is the relationship between the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups?

hospital in gaza

People injured at Al-Shifa Hospital after being hit by a rocket. Israel blamed Islamic Jihad for the explosion at the Gaza City hospital on October 17, 2023. (Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad share a common goal: the disappearance of Israel. Although past disagreements over strategy to confront Israel have strained relations, the groups have carried out coordinated operations in pursuit of this common goal.

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Islamic Jihad focuses most of its attention on military confrontation and has ignored political discussions about Israel. On numerous occasions, Islamic Jihad has acted independently of Hamas, including firing 1,100 rockets into Israel in response to the death of the group’s leader in 2022.

Al-Quds, military branch of Islamic Jihad

Members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing take part in an anti-Israeli military parade to celebrate the 36th anniversary of the movement’s founding in Gaza City. (Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

According to the FDD website, as a member of the Palestinian Joint Operations Room, the group is also linked to Hezbollah through funding and coordination.

What role does Islamic Jihad play in the current conflict?

In addition to Israel accusing Islamic Jihad of being responsible for the rocket attacks that destroyed the Gaza hospital, the group plays other roles in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah claimed responsibility for the detention of more than 30 hostages taken by Hamas during the attack that sparked the war between Israel and Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that in addition to killing a senior Hamas commander, a recent warplane operation neutralized Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists.

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