Islamist rocket fire is lighting up the Middle Eastern skies. Journalists are rushing to scoop the battle as moths fly to a flame. Here is some helpful background on Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and fast moving events.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – spiritual roots
The PLO, al Qa’eda, ISIS, Hamas and PIJ – all of them have spiritual roots in the Society of Muslim Brothers (or Muslim Brotherhood – Jamāʿat al–Ikhwān al–Muslimīn). Founded in 1928 by Egyptian Islamic schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna, its message combined an Islamist blend of political action, economic and social welfare. Islamist teaching and instruction went hand in hand with the establishing of schools, clinics, and mosques. But al-Banna moved away from issues of moral reform (‘the jihad of the heart’), toward promoting violent jihad against Islam’s enemies (jihad bil-sayf; the jihad of the sword).
Al-Banna was assassinated in 1949 in Cairo, and the movement began to focus on establishing a state ruled by Islamist Shari’a law. Its slogan became “Islam is the solution.” Ikhwan’s leaders taught that it was a priority to oppose imperialist and Western occupation. Then a period of Islamist teaching and social welfare should follow. Only then could violent jihad come into play – after the above-mentioned conditions were met. The Muslim world should deal with Israel only after Islam cured its own spiritual and religious ills, revitalizing Islam for the masses.
But others in the movement maintained that waging jihad against the Jewish state was a more effective method. Such ‘holy violence’ would catalyze confrontation between Islam and the West. The result would be a speedier restoration of the Islamic Caliphate.
Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam (1882-1935), a native Syrian, studied at al-Azhar in Egypt. In 1922 he was appointed Imam of Haifa’s al-Istiqlal Mosque. In 1930 he founded a secret terror organization known as ‘the Black Hand’ (al-Kaff al-Aswad), anti-Zionist and anti-British, which aimed to kill Jews and to terrorize the Jewish population in Galilee and the North. Al-Qassam was killed in a shoot-out with British forces near Jenin in 1935, pursued by the British for having murdered a Palestine policeman. Some rioters in the 1936-39 Arab Revolt began to call themselves Qassamiyun (followers of al-Qassam) in his honor. Today’s Palestinian terror group Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of the Gaza-based organization Hamas) use his name in his honor. Their Qassam rockets, fired from Gazan civilian population centers into Israeli civilian population centers, also owe their name to this Islamist terrorist.
Al-Qassam taught that Palestine could be “freed from the danger of Jewish domination” through “an organized and methodical armed struggle.” He referenced Qur’anic verses about jihad to bolster his arguments for attacking Jews in the Promised Land. Al-Qassam’s legacy as a Palestinian hero remains a source of inspiration for radical groups up to the present day. The logo of a Qur’an in one hand and a rifle in the other (inspired by his example) today serves as a symbol for both the PIJ and Hamas.
PIJ – organizational origins
The name Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (Harakat al-Jihād al-Islāmi fi Filastīn; also known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad /PIJ) is an Islamist terror organization founded in 1981 by Fathi al-Shiqaqi and Sheikh Abd al-Aziz Awda.
Fathi al-Shiqaqi was born 1951 in Gaza. He received a mathematics degree from Bir Zeit University, followed by a medical degree from Zaqaziq University in Egypt. While in Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, though eventually turned against their incremental strategies in favor of a more aggressive and violent anti-Israel jihad to be waged by an Islamic revolutionary vanguard.
In Gaza he joined up with former Brotherhood member and fellow Gazan Sheikh Abd al-Aziz Awda. Together they founded PIJ. Sami Al-Arian and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah made important and foundational contributions.
Though all PIJ’s founders were religious Sunnis, they were strongly influenced by Shi’ite Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic Revolution – especially its advocacy of the priority of defeating Israel; his radical strategy of raising up an army of suicide bombers (using Islamist justification); and his success in establishing an Islamist state based on Shari’a (Islamic law).
Both PIJ and Hamas borrowed Khomeini’s strategy of suicide bombing (‘istishadiya’ or self-martyrdom in Arabic). It has also been stridently advocated by Sheikh Yusuf Abdallah Qaradawi, considered one of the foremost Sunni Islamist authorities in the world. Qaradawi’s offices are in Doha, Qatar, not far from United States Central Command Forward HQ at Al Udeid Airbase.
PIJ – foundational beliefs
- The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine is a revolutionary jihad movement embracing Islam as religion and state. It is the vanguard of the Islamic Revolutionary Movement
- Jihad is the solution to liberate Palestine
- The Palestinian Cause is the central cause of the modem Islamic Movement, and is the pivot of today’s global conflict
- The Islamization of the struggle against the Zionist enemy [is our goal]
- The rejection of any peaceful solution for the Palestinian cause, and the affirmation of the jihad solution and the martyrdom style is the only option for liberation
- Our general goals – the realization of the Islamic unity through collective jihad; the liberation of the Holy Land from the Zionist occupation
- Setting off a state of continual attrition of the abilities and capacities of the enemy, and striking its economic and financial sources
- The creation of a state of terror, instability and panic in the souls of Zionists and especially the groups of settlers, forcing them to leave their homes
- The creation of a psychological barrier between the Jews and the Muslim Palestinian people; the creation of a conviction that coexistence is impossible; … resisting … the idea of Arab-Israeli coexistence
- Acting towards the subversion of the capitulation plan existing between the Arab regimes and the Zionist entity
- Islam is the only solution for the conflict. Jihad is the way to liberation. Our struggle is a struggle of existence not borders. Martyrdom awards life. Victory or martyrdom – the way for jihad.
- The position vis-a-vis Peace Plans: A peaceful solution based on recognizing the right of Jews in Palestine or in part of it is a solution that contradicts the logic of the Qur’an
- The struggle in Palestine is a cultural struggle between Islam and the West (represented by the Zionist Project on the Land of Palestine). This struggle should be looked at from a Qur’anic point of view represented in: 1 – The inevitability of the gathering of Jews in Palestine; 2- The inevitability of the Zionist elevation and mischief; 3- The inevitability of the Islamic ennoblement
- The struggle … in Palestine: The people of Palestine are the ‘People of the Garrison.’ They are the tip of the spear directed towards the Zionist entity. The toppling of the Arab regimes is a part of the toppling of the Zionist entity
At the Fourth Annual ICP (Islamic Committee for Palestine) Conference in Chicago, December 1991, FBI transcripts quote PIJ founder Awda: “The contradiction between us and the Zionist enemy is a fundamental contradiction, which stands on one side annihilating the other . . . The first issue among our basic principles in our struggle with the Zionist enemy is that: There is no peace with Israel.”
At a 1991 ICP event held at Currie High School in Chicago, FBI transcripts of September 29 (USA v. AlArian, Exhibit T-567), show Al-Arian stating:
- “Did we forget the Jews and the sons of Jews? God warns us in the Qur’an of the sons of Israel and cursed them in the holy Qur’an. He cursed those who are the sons of Israel through David and Jesus, the son of Mary, because they disobeyed and assailed, and they were not held back by any prohibition they committed. Those people, God made monkeys and pigs.”
- “The Qur’an is our constitution; Jihad is our path; Victory to Islam; Death to Israel; Revolution, revolution until the victory.”
PIJ – track record
The armed wing of PIJ is known as Saraya Al-Quds (‘The Al-Quds/The Holy Place/ Jerusalem Brigades’), and is responsible for carrying out the group’s attacks.
Between 1984-1987, the PIJ carried out a string of murders, stabbings, and bombings.
Here is an incomplete list of PIJ terror bomb attacks from 1989 through 2006:
- July 6 1989: Egged bus 405 on Route 1 to Jerusalem; 16 killed, 27 wounded
- February 4 1990: Israeli tourists attacked on Egyptian tour bus; 9 killed, 17 wounded
- February 14 1992: Night of the Pitchforks, near Kibbutz Gal’ed; 3 killed;1 wounded
- April 13 1994: A bus bomb Hadera Central Bus Station; 9 killed, 50 wounded
- January 22 1995: suicide bomb attack at Bet Lid/Netanya; 20 soldiers killed, 69 wounded. A second bomber blew himself up among the rescue team
- April 9 1995: Bomb Attack in Netzarim and Kfar Darom; 8 killed, 52 wounded
- March 4 1996: Dizengoff Center Tel Aviv shopping mall; 13 killed, 130 wounded
- November 2 2000: Outdoor market, Jerusalem; 2 killed, 10 wounded
- May 25 2001: Hadera Central Bus Station; 45 wounded
- August 9 2001: Sbarro Pizzeria, Jerusalem; 15 killed, 130 wounded
- March 20 2002: Wadi Ara, Bomb in minibus; 7 killed, 30 wounded
- March 27, 2002 Passover seder Park Hotel, Netanya; 30 killed, 140 wounded
- June 2002: Megiddo Junction; 18 killed, 50 wounded
- July 17 2002: A double attack in Tel Aviv; 5 killed, 40 wounded
- November 15 2002: Hebron; 12 killed, 15 wounded
- May 19 2003: Afula; 3 killed, 70 wounded shopping mall
- August 19 2003: Shmuel Hanavi Jerusalem; 24 killed, 130 wounded
- October 4 2003: Maxim’s ; 22 killed, 60 injured at Arab-Jewish restaurant Haifa
- October 26 2005: Hadera market; 7 killed, 55 wounded
- April 17 2006: Rosh Ha’ir Shawarma; 11 killed, 70 wounded
- June 24 2013: six rockets were fired into Israel
- March 12-14 2014: over 60 rockets launched by PIJ
Space and time do not permit a full list of PIJ terror attacks. It is clear that PIJ is a murderous jihadi terror organization, which invests much time and effort in killing Jews and Israelis. This is a small portion of the context behind recent events in Gaza and Israel. PIJ, which considers itself the ‘tip of the Islamist spear’ against the Jewish people, now finds itself facing the tip of Israel’s spear over the past few days.
PIJ & Iran – strange bedfellows
PIJ and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been much involved in planning terror and rocket attacks on Israel over the years. Prior to this latest outbreak, PIJ Secretary General Ziad Nakhaleh met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Tehran to coordinate moves. PIJ is quite open about the military equipment and support it receives from Iran – aid which has reached a total of $70 million per year.
Iran’s strategy in preparing to annihilate Israel involves supporting Hamas and PIJ on the west, Hezbollah on the north west, Syria on the northeast, and Yemenite Houthi drone armies on the farther east. Iran itself is hard at work developing nuclear weapons, cruise missiles and drone armies for its own use, as well as conventional rockets and missiles to send through Damascus International Airport for trans-shipment to Lebanon and Gaza.
The present military stirrings are no accident, and are a challenge for us to pray for Israel’s protection at this time.
PIJ and Hamas
The relations between Hamas and PIJ have sometimes been good, and at other times rocky. Both groups have Muslim Brotherhood roots. Both groups share the twin goals of destroying Israel and replacing it with a Palestinian state ruled by an Islamic government.
The PIJ, however, refuses to negotiate or engage in diplomacy, prioritizing terrorist jihadi activity, while Hamas is also political party, providing social services while operating a large military wing.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the two groups clashed mainly over ideological differences. PIJ buys into the Iranian concept of waliyat al faqih (governance by clerics led by a supreme ruler), while Hamas rejects this notion.
In June 2013, Hamas police killed PIJ rocket unit commander Raed Jundiya after he launched rockets towards Israel, thus violated a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The PIJ cut off ties with Hamas for three days, but soon resumed cooperation.
PIJ will occasionally fire rockets at Israel in an attempt to catalyze full-blown hostilities between Gaza and the Jewish state. Hamas half-heartedly attempts to restrain PIJ at those times, alternately opposing PIJ’s tactics or going along with them.
PIJ and the Wild West Bank
PIJ leadership in the West Bank has been increasing shooting and bombing against Israelis, both civilian and military, in recent months. Jenin has also been receiving daily incursions from IDF special operations forces.
Bassem al-Saadi (senior leader of PIJ’s al-Quds Brigades in the West Bank) and his son Ashraf al-Jada were arrested less than a week ago in Jenin, where they had been in the planning stages for imminent attacks on Israelis. Israel’s SHABAK (equivalent to FBI) noted that al-Saadi’s “presence was a significant factor in the radicalization of the organization’s operatives in the field” and that his arrest was due to the fact that he was a ‘clear and present danger.’
In response to al-Saadi’s arrest, PIJ began to activate plans for terror attacks on IDF soldiers and farmers in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip. Israel’s SIGINT and human assets picked up on chatter about a PIJ plot to mount an anti-tank missile attack on an Israeli bus or a train. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz gave orders to activate Operation Break of Dawn (that’s the literal Hebrew for ‘alot hashachar’; the English name given by the IDF is Operation Breaking Dawn; see Genesis 32:25).
On Thursday August 4 at 16:16 hours, Israel Air Force drones moved with pinpoint precision and, in a total of 170 seconds, they took out the top PIJ General in northern Gaza, and the top anti-tank PIJ commander in southern Gaza. By Saturday evening August 6, the IAF and SHABAK had eliminated all of PIJ’s top command structure.
PIJ – battle statistics
For a few days PIJ has been firing Qassam rockets (935 at latest count) into Israeli farms, kibbutzim, villages and cities – directed only at civilians. PIJ on the other hand places its rocket launchers in the middle of its own civilian population. This makes it increasingly difficult for the IAF to attack and destroy these launchers. Colonel Richard Kemp, a highly respected British Army commander, has stated that the IDF is the most responsible and careful of any army in the world when it comes to avoiding civilian casualties.
Latest breaking news is that both sides in this conflict have agreed to a ceasefire at 23:30 local time Sunday August 7. Until then, PIJ will continue to fire salvoes of rockets, and the IAF will continue to interdict them.
A ceasefire does not last forever
Both PIJ and Hamas want to see Israel destroyed. If they felt sufficiently strong and militarily capable, and if they felt that Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, the Houthis and Qatar would have their backs, these two organizations would be happy to try a ‘Hail Mary pass,’ throwing everything they have into a desperate, last-ditch jihadi effort at annihilating the Jewish state.
With that eschatological understanding as a background, the world should realize that ceasefires with jihadi Islamists are not worth the paper they are written on. Only when the spiritual powers behind such movements are decisively crushed (as in the Axis Powers at the conclusion of WWII) can these destructive forces be quenched. Barring that eventuality, it will only be at Messiah Yeshua’s coming when Yeshua will eliminate the lawless one “with the breath of His mouth and bring to [his] end by the appearance of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for the ceasefire to hold
- Pray for Israel’s leadership to receive divine wisdom about how to proactively deal with the current situation
- Pray for God’s hand to preserve life on all sides
- Pray for a divine visitation from Messiah Yeshua to come to all leaders involved
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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