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 Palestinian Islamic Jihad

This Statement of Reasons is based on publicly available information about Palestinian Islamic Jihad. To the Australian Government's knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information where available.

Name of the organisation

Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Known aliases

  • al-Quds Brigades
  • Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami fi Filistin
  • Islamic Jihad
  • Islamic Jihad Palestine
  • Islamic Jihad—Palestine Faction and Islamic Holy War
  • PIJ
  • Saraya al-Quds, and
  • The Jerusalem Brigades.

Legislative basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Minister for Home Affairs must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  • is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  • advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first listed Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 3 May 2004. It was re-listed on 5 June 2005, 7 October 2005, 8 September 2007, 8 September 2009, 18 August 2012, 11 August 2015 and 4 August 2018.

Details of the organisation

Overview and objectives

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a religiously and ideologically motivated violent extremist organisation. Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s ideology fuses Sunni Islamic and Palestinian nationalist objectives, which are intertwined and not easily distinguishable. Ultimately, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s goal is the establishment of a sovereign Islamic state within the historic borders of Palestine. Palestinian Islamic Jihad promotes the military destruction of Israel as the only viable means to attain this goal, and rejects a two-state solution.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad focuses almost exclusively on militant activities that further its objectives. As such, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, and the organisation as a whole are indistinguishable. The al-Quds Brigades claim responsibility for attacks on behalf of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and its statements are disseminated via the al-Quds Brigades-run website or Palestinian Islamic Jihad‑affiliated media outlets.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad primarily operates in Gaza, but has offices elsewhere in the Middle East, including in Syria and Lebanon.

Leadership

Palestinian Islamic Jihad was founded in Gaza in 1981 by Dr Fathi abd al-Aziz Shaqaqi and Shayk Abd al‑Aziz Awda. While both were originally members of the Muslim Brotherhood—a transnational Sunni organisation—they believed the group was too moderate and created Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a radical militant alternative focused on the liberation of Palestine.

The current Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad is Ziyad al-Nakhaleh—who took over from Dr Ramadan Abdullah Shallah in 2018 after Shallah’s hospitalisation. Nakhaleh oversees Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s leadership council, which is responsible for directing Palestinian Islamic Jihad operations via regional commands.

Membership and recruitment

The exact size of Palestinian Islamic Jihad's membership is unclear, with estimates ranging from less than a thousand, up to 8,000 members.

Due to its secretive nature, Palestinian Islamic Jihad's current approach to recruitment is unclear; however, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has previously used targeted selection and recruitment strategies. This has included recruitment of students for protest activities; suicide bombers including women for attacks; and children to ensure ongoing support for the Palestinian resistance into the next generation.

Financing

Despite being a Sunni group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad supports, and receives the majority of its funding from Iran.

Links to other terrorist organisations

Despite being a Sunni group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad remains ideologically supportive of, and maintains close ties with Hizballah, whose External Security Organisation is a listed terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad has engaged in operations, including shared use of tunnel networks, with Hamas’ Izz al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ Brigades), which is a listed terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.

Directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

Palestinian Islamic Jihad continues to conduct attacks and engage in attack planning against Israel, and is assessed as responsible or can be reasonably assessed as responsible for the following terrorist attacks and actions:

  • From 10-21 May 2021, Palestinian militants, including from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, launched over 4,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza. Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades have publicly claimed responsibility for launching rockets, mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades against Israel during this period.
  • In March 2021, Palestinian Islamic Jihad published a video showing its members preparing to fire rockets. This coincided with the launch of a rocket towards Be’er Sheva, Israel around the time Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was scheduled to visit the area.
  • On 24 August 2020, four Palestinian Islamic Jihad members were killed in an apparent bomb‑making incident at an al-Quds Brigades compound in Gaza. Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that its fighters were killed during ‘preparations to remove the criminal entity from our occupied lands’. By ‘criminal entity’, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is almost certainly referring to the state of Israel.
  • Tensions between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel escalated in February 2020:
    • On 23 February 2020, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed it had fired at two Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants, killing one, as they attempted to plant an explosive device along the Gaza perimeter fence east of Khan Younis in Gaza. The IDF accused the militants of being part of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell that had planted at least two other explosive devices along the perimeter fence in recent months. Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirmed the deceased militant was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member and threatened ‘the blood of martyrs will not be in vain’.
    • From 23-24 February 2020, Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired a barrage of rockets and mortar rounds into Israel in response to its member’s death and Israeli air strikes on its positions in Gaza and Syria. According to the IDF, Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 80 rockets, although most were intercepted by Israeli air defence systems.
  • From 3-5 May 2019, tensions between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel escalated in response to the deaths of several Palestinian protestors during confrontations along the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence and the wounding of two Israeli soldiers in sniper fire from Gaza. Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Hamas’ Brigades fired over 700 rockets into Israel, killing at least four civilians and injuring dozens of others.

On the basis of these examples, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is responsible for directly or indirectly engaging in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Palestinian Islamic Jihad encourages Palestinians to attack Israel and to celebrate violent resistance against Israel, and advocates the use of terrorist tactics in their public messaging. Palestinian Islamic Jihad maintains an Arabic website, which is used to celebrate Jihadist operations, memorialise martyrs, and promote anti-Israeli propaganda.

  • On 7 February 2020, Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesperson, Abu Hamza, publicly called on Palestinians to attack Israeli military checkpoints and settlements in response to the US ‘deal of the century’ Middle East peace plan. Hamza stated on Twitter: ‘we call for comprehensive and direct conflict’ and ‘heroic operations in Jerusalem and the West Bank are a response of our people, emphasized with blood and weapons, that are against the “deal of the century” and the Judaization of the holy places’.

On the basis of these examples, Palestinian Islamic Jihad advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Other considerations

Links to Australia and threats to Australian interests

There are no known direct links between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Australia. Palestinian Islamic Jihad has not made statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests. However, Australians could be incidentally harmed in attacks.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the governments of Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

Palestinian Islamic Jihad agreed to a ceasefire following the May 2021 escalation in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict involving the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.

However, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leadership had previously publicly committed to maintaining a ceasefire brokered with Hamas and Israel in 2014, where all parties were understood to have breached the ceasefire in the intervening period. Palestinian Islamic Jihad also engaged in ceasefire agreements in November 2019 and February 2020.

Conclusion

On the basis of the information above, the Australian Government assesses that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts, and advocates the doing of a terrorist act.​