This group defines jihad as acts of war against Israelis. Palestinian Islamic Jihad also opposes many other Arab governments, whom they see as being insufficiently Islamic and too Western. The PIJ's armed wing, the Al-Quds brigades, has claimed responsibility for numerous militant attacks in Israel, including suicide bombings. Their ability to carry out attacks on Israel has been limited since Israel's construction of the West Bank barrier and the isolation of the Gaza Strip, although they frequently threaten waves of "martyrdom operations." The group is responsible for the Qassam rocket barrages at Israeli towns that have killed and injured civilians, and cause widespread hardship in communities in Israel's south (See: List of Qassam rocket attacks. The rockets are primarily launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Islamic Jihad is significantly smaller than Hamas, and lacks the wide social network that Hamas has. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad was formed in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s by Fathi Shaqaqi and Abd Al Aziz Awda as a branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an organization currently led by Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah. The group is also said to receive some funding from Hezbollah. The group has also clashed repeatedly with Hamas following the latter's takeover of the Gaza strip in mid-2007.
Islamic Jihad has much in common with Hamas. They both have an Islamist agenda, they call for the destruction of Israel, they have cooperated in attacks against Israel, they formed as offshoots of Egypt's Islamic Brotherhood, and they receive funds from Iran.
Fathi Shaqaqi led the organization for two decades. He was killed in Malta in October 1995 by an unknown party. Some people believe the party to be Israel, while others say other Palestinian groups killed him. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad often attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli targets on the anniversary of his death, although the identity of the assassins was never determined.
During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, beginning in September 2000, the PIJ committed many suicide bombing attacks against Israelis. Many of the attacks in 2001 and 2002 came from the PIJ in Jenin, headed by Mahmoud Tawallbe, Ali Sefoori and Tabeth Mardawi. The headquarters of the PIJ in Jenin and the West Bank was seriously damaged during Operation Defensive Shield: Tawallbe was killed by an IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer while Sefoori and Mardawi were arrested by Israel security forces.
On February 20, 2003, University of South Florida computer engineering professor Dr. Sami Al-Arian was arrested after being indicted on 50 terrorism related charges. US Attorney General John Ashcroft alleged at a press conference that Dr. Al-Arian is the North American head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On December 6, 2005, Al-Arian was acquitted on 8 of the 17 charges against him and the jury deadlocked on the rest 10-2. Then on March 2, 2006, Al-Arian entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to help members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in nonviolent activities, unrelated to the PIJ. Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months less time (about 38 months) served, and will be deported upon completion of the remainder of the sentence.
Islamic Jihad is alleged to have used teens as suicide bombers. On March 29, 2004, 16-year-old Tamer Khuweir in Rifidia, an Arab suburb of Nablus was apprehended by Israeli security forces as he prepared to carry out a suicide attack. His older brother claimed he was brainwashed to do it by an Islamic Jihad cleric and demanded the Palestinian Authority investigate the incident and arrest those responsible for it.
After Shaqaqi's death, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been led since 1995 by fellow founder Sheikh Abdullah Ramadan Shallah, aka Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, who was then listed as a "Specially Designated Terrorist" under United States law on November 27, 1995, and subsequently was indicted on RICO charges, and consequently became one of the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists on February 24, 2006.
The use of a vehicle that resembled a press vehicle evoked a sharp response from many journalists and news organizations. Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitsonn responded by saying,
“Using a vehicle with press markings to carry out a military attack is a serious violation of the laws of war, and it also puts journalists at risk.”The FPA responded by saying,
"Armored vehicles marked with TV are an invaluable protection for genuine journalists working in hostile environments. The FPA has long campaigned for the continued availability of armored vehicles for its members, despite official opposition in some quarters. The abuse of this recognized protection for the working journalist is a grave development and we condemn those that carried it out. Such an incident will reduce the protection offered by marked vehicles.During a press conference, an Islamic Jihad spokesperson Abu Ahmed denied that they had put press markings on the jeep used in the attack and said,
"The Al-Quds Brigades used an armoured jeep resembling military armoured jeeps used by the Zionist intelligence services."