Shocked Gazans on Monday cleared rubble, and buried their dead, during the three-day lull in fighting between Islamic Jihad and Israel.
The truce, obtained thanks to the mediation of Egypt, entered into force at 11:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m., Mexico City time), but both Islamic Jihad and Israel kept the right to reply in case of future assaults.
Calm was gradually returning to the Gaza Strip as residents cleared away rubble and searched for their belongings.
“We received the news of the ceasefire with joy, and went back to our jobs,” explains a trader from the Gaza Strip, Hazem Douima. “We don’t want any more bloodshed,” he added.
This confrontation between Israel and Islamic Jihad is the worst since the one that broke out between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist movement – in May 2021.
“Who wants a war? No one. But we also don’t like to keep silent when women, children and leaders die,” a Gaza taxi driver who gave his name only as Abu Mohammad told Reuters. “Eye for an eye”.
Here is what we know about this militant organization, as well as its relationship to the conflict in the region.
What is your origin and ideology?
Born from a student group in Egypt in the late 1970s, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is currently one of the most important armed movements in the area and is sponsored by Iran.
Inspired by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Fathi Abd al Shikaki and Abd Al Aziz Awda, two young Gazans, germinated the idea of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) while studying in Egypt in 1979.
What is your relationship with Iran?
This organization was founded in 1981, backed by Iran and committed to armed resistance against the Jewish state.
Created by students at the Islamic University of Gaza, it is seen as close to the Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled the Palestinian enclave since 2007. The two groups, supported by Iran — Israel’s No. 1 enemy — are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement founded in Egypt in the 20th century.
The Israeli government claims that relations between the Palestinian group and Iran have become closer. “The leader of Islamic Jihad (Ziad al-Najala) is in Tehran at the moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Saturday.
General Hosein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian Republic’s ideological army, assured the Islamic Jihad leader on Saturday that the Palestinians “are not alone” in their fight against Israel.
Where does it operate?
Islamic Jihad operates mainly in Gaza, but the group also has a presence in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
Why is it considered a terrorist organization?
In 1992, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al Qods Brigades, was founded. The organization was directed by Fathi Chakaki until 1995, when the leader, also a writer and doctor, was assassinated in Malta by Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service.
Considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks against Israelis, especially during the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising, 2000-2005).
In 1989, he carried out a suicide attack on a Tel Aviv-Jerusalem bus that killed 16 people.
Many leaders of the organization are currently in Damascus, Syria.
Islamic Jihad opposes any negotiations with Israel and rejects the Oslo accords, signed by the Palestinian Authority and Israel in 1993.
Although the organization generally coordinates its operations with Hamas, the current escalation highlights its autonomy of action.
Hamas has not fired rockets at Israel since the escalation began on Friday, as it did in 2019, when Islamic Jihad and Israel exchanged fire for several days following the death of an Islamic group commander in an Israeli operation, Baha Abu Al Ata.
That was the head of the organization in northern Gaza. His successor in the post, Taysir Al Jabari, was killed in an Israeli strike on Friday.
What is the current conflict?
Israel launched what it called preemptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack aimed at avenging the arrest of a group leader, Bassam al-Saadi, in the occupied West Bank.
In response, Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. The group said the truce would involve al-Saadi’s release. Israeli officials did not immediately comment.
On Sunday, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire into Jerusalem in what it described as retaliation for Israel’s overnight killing of its commander in southern Gaza, the second high-ranking officer it has lost in fighting.
Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor, whose success rate the army estimated at 97%, shot down the rockets just west of the city.
Since the start of the Israeli operation on Friday, 44 Palestinians have died, including 15 children, and 360 have been injured, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Ministry of Health, which is governed by the Islamist group Hamas.
In Israel, three people have been injured by rocket fire since Friday, according to emergency services.
In response, the armed group, backed by Iran and included in the list of terrorist organizations of the United States and the European Union, fired hundreds of rockets towards Israel.
The main military leaders of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Taysir al Jabari and Khaled Mansur, as well as several fighters of the group, were killed. His death was confirmed by the organization.
Islamic Jihad’s military wing said in a statement Monday that 12 members were killed in the Israeli strikes.
In addition, Israel has arrested some 40 members of that armed group in recent days in the occupied West Bank.
With information from AFP, EFE and Reuters