Israel claimed that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), an Islamic terrorist group based in Gaza, is responsible for the airstrike that claimed the lives of at least 500 Palestinians in a hospital in Gaza City. 

Hamas immediately blamed Israel. In response, the Israeli military showed that, based on surveillance and an audio recording, a misfired rocket with intentions of targeting Tel Aviv from the Palestinian terrorist group caused the strike at al-Ahli Baptist hospital. Al-Ahli had housed wounded Palestinians and those seeking shelter after Israel told residents to flee Gaza City before the military’s invasion. 

Along with Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad is part of a network of terror groups on Israel’s borders that commit acts of terrorism. With an estimated 1,000 members, PIJ is the second largest, after Hamas, in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.


The Islamic terrorist group was founded by Fathi Shaqaqi in 1979, according to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) website. It was then designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State in 1997. As a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, PIJ seeks to establish an Islamist Palestinian state to destroy Israel.

Headquartered in Lebanon, PIJ maintains a presence in Gaza, the West Bank and Syria.

Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who was classified as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of State, is the current leader of PIJ.

PIJ receives support from Iran, Syria and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. In addition to support, Islamic Jihad draws its inspiration from Iran. The group has endorsed the Iranian revolution as a movement to be modeled throughout the Muslim world, especially concerning the creation of a Palestinian state.

Although a Sunni Muslim group, PIJ adopted the suicide techniques used primarily by Shia groups in Iran and has carried out suicide attacks targeting Israelis.

Shaqaqi, the founder of Islamic Jihad, shared the belief of Iran’s former supreme leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, that “Islam was the solution and Jihad was the proper means.”

Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, who took over for Shaqaqi after he was assassinated in 1995, has even had meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran and Damascus.

To this day, Iran remains a significant funding source for Islamic Jihad. 


As reported in the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2021, Iran continued to support numerous U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including Islamic Jihad, by providing weapons, funding and training. Weaponry included rockets and armed unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). 

According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Islamic Jihad’s attacks have the fingerprints of Iran all over them. Although smaller and weaker than Hamas, the group has been responsible for deadly attacks in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Iran is trying for years, especially in the last few months, to have a terror organization, both the Islamic Jihad that is fully supported and financed by Iran, and Hamas terror organization that is also financed but not fully by Iran. They are calling them to attack Israel and Israelis,” Lior Haiat, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, told Fox News Digital on the first day of the Israel-Hamas war.

Haiat added, “Those terror organizations [Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad] are working as proxies of the ayatollah regime.” 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad share a united goal of Israel’s demise. Although disagreements in the past on the strategy to confront Israel have strained the relationship, the groups have had some coordinated operations with that shared purpose in mind.


Islamic Jihad focuses most of its attention on military confrontation and has disregarded political talks about Israel. On many occasions, Islamic Jihad has acted independently of Hamas, including firing 1,100 rockets into Israel in response to the death of the group’s leader in 2022. 

According to the FDD website, as a Palestinian Joint Operations Room member, the group is also tied to Hezbollah through funding and coordination.

In addition to Israel blaming Islamic Jihad for the rocket attacks that blasted the hospital in Gaza, the group has other roles within the Israel-Hamas war.

Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah took responsibility for holding captive more than 30 of the hostages taken by Hamas during the attack that began the Israel-Hamas war.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that, along with killing a top Hamas commander, a recent fighter jet operation neutralized Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorist operatives.