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Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ, Arab Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini) is a militant group, widely regarded as terrorist throughout the world, whose goal is the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Islamist state for Palestinian Arabs.

This group defines Jihad as acts of war against Jews and others who do not share their beliefs. Palestinian Islamic Jihad also opposes many other Arab governments, who they see as not being sufficiently Islamic and too western. The PIJ has claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in Israel, including suicide bombings.

Unlike the far bigger Hamas, which split from it, the Islamic Jihad has a small support base, and no real social or political role. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad was formed in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s by Fathi Shaqaqi as a branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Shkaki led the organization for two decades. He was killed in Malta in October 1995 by an unknown party, sometimes believed to be by Israel, but also hypothesized to be by other Palestinian groups. 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.

The group is based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and its financial backing is believed to come from there and Iran. The group operates primarily in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but has also carried out attacks in Jordan and Lebanon. Its main stromgholds in the West Bank are the cities of Hebron and Jenin.

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.

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