What is Islamic Jihad? The Hamas ally at war with Israel

Oct 18, 2023

(Reuters) – Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group that is an ally of Hamas and took part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel from Gaza, has denied Israel’s accusations that it was behind a strike on a hospital in Gaza that killed hundreds of people.

Following are some facts about Islamic Jihad:

* Israelis and Palestinians have blamed each other for bombing of Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City late on Oct. 17. Israel said Islamic Jihad was responsible, saying a failed rocket launch by the group hit the hospital. Islamic Jihad denied this, saying it did not have any activity in or around Gaza City at that time.

* Founded in the late 1970s by Fathi Shiqaqi and Abdel-Aziz Odeh, Islamic Jihad gained support among Palestinians disillusioned with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Shiqaqi was assassinated in 1995 in Malta, apparently by Israeli agents.

* The group is sworn to destroying Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state spanning what was pre-1948 British Mandate Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

* A recipient of Iranian funding and know-how estimated by Israel to be in the tens of millions of dollars annually, Islamic Jihad has foreign headquarters in Beirut and Damascus and its deployment in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, while more limited than in Gaza, has recently grown.

* Islamic Jihad has the second-biggest armed network in Gaza after that of the enclave’s governing militant group Hamas. Up-to-date figures on Islamic Jihad’s strength are difficult to come by, with 2021 estimates ranging from about 1,000 to several thousand gunmen, according to the CIA’s World Factbook. The group also has a significant arsenal of rockets, mortars and anti-tank missiles. Islamic Jihad does not disclose such information.

* Unlike Hamas, Islamic Jihad has not contested Palestinian parliamentary elections and appears to have no ambition to form a government in Gaza or the West Bank.

* Islamic Jihad is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and European countries.

(This story has been refiled to remove repeated words in paragraph 7)

(Compiled by Reuters reporters; Editing by Edmund Blair)



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