August 6, 2022
After several days of terror alerts, Israel announced that it launched Operation Breaking Dawn on Aug. 5 as part of an effort to reduce threats posed by the Iranian-armed and funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip, which had been planning a significant terror attack against the Jewish state.
Several Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the northern Gaza Strip were struck. Among the terrorists killed in the strike were Taysir al-Jabari, a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander who was in charge of the group’s rocket arsenal and primary coordinator with Hamas.
According to Israel Defense Forces (IDF), al-Jabari had been planning significant attacks against Israel, including the use of anti-tank missiles. The IDF said that he had also directed hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel during the May 2021 conflict in Gaza.
The hostilities erupted as Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah was in Iran meeting with several senior officials in Tehran, including an advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi.
Here are five things to know about Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
- Palestinian Islamic Jihad rejects any peaceful solution
Founded in the early 1980s as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is the second-largest terrorist group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas. The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Israel.
Like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is dedicated to the eradication of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state. According to its "Manifesto of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine,” which was uncovered by U.S. investigators amid the arrest of the group’s North American head Sami al-Arian in 2003, the group rejects any “peaceful solution to the Palestinian cause” and affirms "the Jihad solution and the martyrdom style as the only choice for liberation."
The group has a military arm, the al-Quds Brigades, which fires rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel and carries out terrorist attacks. During the Second Intifada, Palestinian Islamic Jihad “specialized” in carrying out suicide attacks in Israeli territory. Among the deadliest attacks it has carried out included a bus bombing on Israel’s Megiddo Junction in June 2002 that killed 17 and wounded 43; an August 2003 suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21 and injured over 100; an October 2003 suicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa that killed 21; and an April 2006 suicide bombing on a schwarma restaurant in Tel Aviv that killed 11 and injured 70.
- A terror proxy of Iran
Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s primary sponsor is Iran, which has provided millions of dollars in funding, as well as training and weapons. It also maintains close ties with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon and Hamas, the largest terror group in the Gaza Strip.
While Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s co-founders - Fathi al-Shaqaqi and Abdelaziz Odeh – were originally inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, they later became disillusioned with the Islamist group and turned toward Iran. The terror group adopted Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s principles of jihad and the idea that Palestine must be liberated through armed struggle. This identification with Iran’s Islamic Revolution led Iran to support it militarily and economically. This included bonuses for every terrorist attack against Israel and training of Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives, along with Hamas and Hezbollah, have been trained by Iran to use Fajr-5 and SA-7 missiles and carry out suicide bombings.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader al-Nakalah met with Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, in Iran ahead of hostilities in the Gaza Strip. In his meeting, Velayati stressed close ties, saying, “We have a close and serious relationship with the Islamic Jihad movement and the Palestinian resistance.”
- Rockets and terror tunnels
While Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has been the main threat to Israel, especially when it comes to rocket fire, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has also been responsible for rocket fire on the Jewish state.
During the May 2021 conflict in Gaza, Palestinian terror groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, fired over 4,000 rockets at Israel.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has also been involved in attacking Israeli forces along the Gaza perimeter fence as well as developing a network of tunnels to attack Israel.
In April, Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters showed off their terror tunnel network to international media, highlighting that they have both defensive and offensive tunnel systems.
According to a Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, the offensive tunnels are “used for taking Israeli soldiers captive, repelling Israeli ground offensives and carrying out various field operations.”
Israel has long expressed concern that these tunnels could be used to capture soldiers or civilians that could be used as bargaining chips in prisoner exchanges or carry out attacks inside Israel proper. Israel has invested millions in boosting security around the Gaza Strip, including building an underground steel wall to prevent tunnels from reaching Israeli territory.
- Expanding Terror Hotbed in West Bank
In recent months, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, along with other terror groups, have increased their presence and activities in the northern West Bank, particularly in Nablus and Jenin. Terrorists with Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, al-Quds Brigades, have stepped up attacks on Israeli settlers and Israel Defense Forces soldiers and installations. This comes as the Palestinian Authority, which coordinates security with Israel, has increasingly lost control of the security situation in that region amid popular discontent with the P.A. and its leader Mahmoud Abbas by the Palestinian public.
Jenin has been seen as a hotbed of terrorist activity, with several terrorists carrying out attacks against Israel from the area earlier this year.
As a result of this increasing terror threat, Israel arrested Bassem Saadi, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank, on Aug. 1, which further escalated tensions with the terror group as it threatened retaliation against Israel, including the launch of an anti-tank missile attack, leading to a preemptive Israeli strike on Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the northern Gaza Strip on Aug. 5.
- "Islamic Jihad wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis"
In his first address since the launch of Operation Breaking Down on Aug. 5, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that his government has “zero-tolerance” for any attempted attacks from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory.
The Israeli leader said that “Terrorist organizations will not set the agenda in the area adjacent to Gaza, we will not tolerate any threat against our civilians.”
Further, Lapid said that “Islamic Jihad is an Iranian proxy that wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis. The head of Islamic Jihad is in Tehran as we speak.”
“We will do whatever it takes to defend our people.”