TCAP Expansion Profile: Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
We present here an analysis of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and why they are being added to the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform’s Inclusion Policy. Blogs will be published for each new entity explaining the reasons for inclusion.
Reasons for inclusion
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a violent Sunni Islamist organisation based in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and dedicated to the eradication of the state of Israel. The group aims to establish an Islamic nation-state across Gaza, the West Bank, and all current Israeli territory. It is designated as a terrorist entity by seven of the designating authorities consulted for the TCAP Inclusion Policy.
The group and its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, have conducted numerous attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets over decades, including rocket attacks, suicide bombings, stabbings, and vehicle impact attacks. PIJ has received training and funding from Hezbollah and Iran throughout its existence.
PIJ publishes much of its propaganda via its own websites and on popular messaging apps. The group’s propaganda has significant viewership online: one channel used for distributing propaganda by the al-Quds Brigades had more than 200,000 members in October 2023.
The addition of terrorist entities to the TCAP Inclusion Policy depends on the threat posed by the group, the volume and frequency of online content shared, and the legal or designation status of a given group. Following an analysis of each of these factors when it comes to PIJ, we have decided to prioritise adding the group to the TCAP as of 13 October 2023.
For more information on each designation system and how it corresponds to the legality of content produced by listed entities, please see our full report on designation.
The consequences of an FTO designation listing include: all funds of the organization under the control of U.S. institutions may be frozen; aliens who are members or representatives of, provide material support to, solicit funds for, or recruit members for the FTO are ineligible for U.S. visas and other immigration-related benefits; and it is illegal for persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States as defined in the statute to knowingly provide material support or resources to an FTO, and those who provide such support may be subject to significant civil and criminal penalties, including fine or a term of imprisonment.
The designation by the Treasury Department results in the blocking of any property, or interests in property, of these persons that are located in the United States or that are controlled by U.S. persons (including legal persons) anywhere in the world. It also prevents U.S. persons or persons located in the United States from having any dealings with the property or property interests of designated persons.
Proscription makes it a criminal offence to: (i) belong, or profess to belong, to a proscribed organisation in the UK or overseas; (ii) invite support for a proscribed organisation, (iii) express an opinion or belief that is supportive of a proscribed organisation, reckless as to whether a person to whom the expression is directed will be encouraged to support a proscribed organisation; (iv) arrange, manage or assist in arranging or managing a meeting in the knowledge that the meeting is to support or further the activities of a proscribed organisation, or is to be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation; or to address a meeting if the purpose of the address is to encourage support for, or further the activities of, a proscribed organisation; (v) wear clothing or carry or display articles in public in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that the individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation ; (vi) and to publish an image of an item of clothing or other article, such as a flag or logo, in the same circumstances. Canada
It is an offence to knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity of a terrorist group. This participation is only an offence if its purpose is to enhance the ability of any terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity.” In addition, property may be seized, and financial institutions have reporting obligations when dealing with designated entities.
Consequences of the listing include ‘freezing the assets of terrorist entities and making it a criminal offence to participate in or support the activities of the designated terrorist entity. This includes in particular dealing with the property of the designated terrorist entity or making property or financial services available to the entity. Other support for terrorist activities such as fundraising and recruiting or harbouring terrorists is a criminal offence whether a group is designated or not.’
A listing can provide the basis for establishing the fact that an organisation is a terrorist organisation in a criminal proceeding.
Listing an organisation has the potential to disrupt terrorism-related activities and serve as a deterrent, allowing the Australian Government to put an organisation and members of the public on notice that the organisation is a terrorist organisation under Australian law, and that certain dealings with the organisation – such as membership, funding or providing resources – are criminal offences.
The listing of an organisation also has symbolic value: it sends a clear public message that the Australian Government does not condone the actions of groups that use terrorism to achieve their political, religious or ideological objectives.’
The effects of an EU listing largely rely on domestic nation states definitions of terrorist offences. More on this can be found in our full Designation Report.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad was founded in 1981 by Abd al-Aziz Awda and Fathi abd al-Aziz Shaqaqi, two Muslim Brotherhood members increasingly disillusioned by that organisation’s mission and strategy. PIJ’s purpose at the time of its inception and throughout its existence has been to destroy the state of Israel and institute an Islamic state in the historic region of Palestine. PIJ has long received support in the form of funding and training from backers including Hezbollah and Iran.
PIJ’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, has conducted numerous attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets over a period of decades. While tactically focused on launching rockets from Gaza towards Israel, the group has repeatedly deployed suicide bombers and claimed responsibility for lone-actor attackers killing civilians.
The United States was the first country of those consulted for TCAP inclusion to proclaim PIJ a specially designated terrorist organisation. The UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the European Union have followed in the years since. PIJ is not known for habitually attacking the territory, people, or diplomatic properties of countries other than Israel, but it has occasionally issued threats against U.S. interests in the Middle East.
As the second-most prominent armed group in Gaza, PIJ has had a close working relationship with Hamas despite the distinct strategic ends of both groups. One U.S. government assessment indicates that “the Al-Quds Brigades…are usually but not always beholden to Hamas’s authority,” while the Australian Government has highlighted usage of a shared tunnel network by the two groups. Co-ordination has occurred in the realm of external relations, with PIJ and Hamas leaders together meeting Iranian senior leadership in Damascus in May 2023.
PIJ joined Hamas in conducting surprise attacks during the latter’s indiscriminate October 2023 incursion into Israel, styled by supporters as the Al-Aqsa Flood operation. In the opening days of the conflict PIJ claimed to have taken more than 30 Israeli hostages. Additionally, PIJ claimed responsibility for attacks undertaken from across the southern border of Lebanon that killed three Israeli soldiers. Days after the initial attacks, PIJ militants in the West Bank announced the intent to plan operations against Israel beyond Gaza and its immediate border regions.
Online activity assessment
The al-Quds Brigades of Palestinian Islamic Jihad ("Saraya al-Quds") maintain a persistent and active presence on at least two official online locations. The first is its website, which acts as a repository of propaganda, news-style bulletins, and general information about the group. The al-Quds Brigades also operate an official channel on a popular messaging app, which serves as a location for sharing real-time updates and multimedia propaganda. In total, the channel had more than 200,000 subscribers in October 2023.
PIJ also maintains a separate website devoted to publishing official videos and statements by the group’s leadership. Officially produced content is typically denoted by watermarks containing the group's branding. The group has historically published multiple types of multimedia propaganda material, including short and long-form videos, photosets, audio-based content, and bulletin-style updates. The group's content is regularly shared across the internet by supporters.
Alerting PIJ content
As part of the decision to include PIJ, we will be alerting propaganda content via the TCAP that is produced by the group’s official media outlets. This will include videos, photosets, newsletters, and other official content.
In addition to including PIJ in the TCAP, Tech Against Terrorism activated its incident protocol on 9 October and has monitored the al-Aqsa Flood attack and the online fallout closely. We have also alerted tech companies to attack perpetrator-produced content, or supporter-generated content which glorifies or supports the attack. We will continue to alert material related to the unfolding incident in Israel in compliance with our protocol; however, when such material is officially branded as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, we will now also issues alerts through the TCAP.This entry is part of a series of monthly blogs dedicated to TCAP expansion, explaining the reasons for inclusion of each new TCAP entity. You can find our full Inclusion Policy, which explains the process and legal grounding we use for deciding which terrorist content we alert here.