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Explained: What is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the outfit accused of failed rocket attack on Gaza hospital?

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the US Department of State since 1997. Additionally, PIJ's Secretary General, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, has been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2014

Explained What is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the outfit accused of failed rocket attack on Gaza hospital?
First Published Oct 18, 2023, 11:27 AM IST

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have accused the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist group of being responsible for a failed rocket launch that resulted in a deadly explosion at a hospital in the Gaza Strip, causing numerous casualties. In an official statement, the IDF cited intelligence from multiple sources indicating that Islamic Jihad was behind the unsuccessful rocket launch that struck the hospital in Gaza. It's essential to note that while Palestinian Islamic Jihad is distinct from Hamas, they are aligned in their fight against Israel. Similar to Hamas, they also receive financial and logistical support from Iran. However, it's worth noting that this marks the first instance where the PIJ's name has emerged during the ongoing conflict.

What is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad?

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a prominent Sunni Islamist militant organization with a fervent mission to establish an Islamist Palestinian state while steadfastly advocating for the annihilation of the state of Israel. 

This group, founded in 1979, originated as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and has since evolved into the second-largest militant group in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The PIJ's ideology and activities have significant implications for the complex geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

This extremist group derives substantial inspiration from the Iranian revolution, aligning itself closely with Iran's anti-Israel stance. In addition to Iranian support, the PIJ also garners backing from Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah. 

The organization's military wing, known as the al-Quds Brigades, has a long history of orchestrating attacks on Israeli targets dating back to the 1990s. While the PIJ occasionally collaborates with Hamas, their partnership has been characterized by tension due to periodic differences in their strategies for opposing Israel.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Tactics

In terms of their tactics and targets, the PIJ primarily employs a range of methods to destabilize the region, including small-arms fire, mortar and rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, and suicide bombings, which were particularly prevalent in the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. 

Furthermore, the organization possesses an arsenal that includes man-portable air defence systems, mortars, armed unmanned aircraft systems, anti-tank guided missiles, and improvised explosive devices, allowing them to adapt to various combat scenarios.

The international community, including the United States, has officially recognized the PIJ as a significant security threat. In 1997, the U.S. Department of State designated PIJ as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, underscoring the group's menace. This classification reflects the organization's commitment to violence and its role in regional instability.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Operating Areas

In terms of their operating areas, PIJ is primarily active within Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. The group's influence also extends to Lebanon and Syria, where they maintain a notable presence, and they have established offices in Tehran, Iran.

In summary, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a radical militant group that has significantly shaped the Middle East conflict landscape for decades. With their relentless pursuit of an Islamist Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel, their actions have far-reaching consequences, not only in the territories they operate in but also in the broader geopolitical context of the region.

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