On Tuesday night, the IDF launched a surgical airstrike that killed Baha Abu Al-Ata, a senior commander for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Al-Atta’s wife was also killed in the blast.

“Abu al-Ata was promoting preparations to commit immediate terror attacks in various ways towards Israeli civilians and [Israel Defence Forces] troops during the recent few days,” the IDF said in a statement. His killing, it added, was a “direct act to remove an imminent threat.”

“Abu al-Atta was responsible for most of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s activity in the Gaza Strip and was a ticking bomb,” it said. 

Abu Ata before and After his death (courtesy: Facebook)

Less than one hour later, three missiles hit the Damascus home of an Islamic Jihad political leader, Akram Al-Ajouri. The terrorist group released a statement saying Ajouri survived the attack but his son was killed. Israel did not respond to claims that it was responsible for the attack. Israel has launched airstrikes into Syria but has a policy that it does not comment on military activities outside of Israel.

At least 50 rockets were fired towards Israel on Tuesday morning. Several Israelis were injured, including an eight-year-old girl who collapsed while running for shelter in Holon. She was evacuated to Wolfson hospital in serious condition.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the second most powerful entity in Gaza. An occasional partner of Hamas in terrorist attacks, both groups originated as offshoots from the Muslim Brotherhood. PIJ is supported by Iran and is closely allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The state goal of the PIJ is the establishment of an Islamic political entity in place of Israel. The organization expressly rejects any, stating that its goals can only be achieved through military means. It is responsible for countless terrorist attacks inside Israel and rocket attacks targeting Israel from Gaza.

Many people outside of Israel may perceive the IDF’s actions as part of Israel’s political interests, but Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, understands the agenda of the Islamic Jihad in a global context.

“Israel is the front line against Islamic Jihad, fighting a war that is intended to arrive at America and Europe,” Dr. Kedar told Breaking Israel News. “Jihad is the effort to spread Islam all over the world. This could be by military force or unrestrained terrorism. The ends entirely justify any means. This could also be through education or economic means but the goal and motivation remain the same.”

Dr. Kedar compared Islamic Jihad to the terrorist organizations the U.S. is currently fighting in Syria.

“Islamic Jihad is one step down from ISIS (Islamic State),” Dr. Kedar said. “They do not accept any other possibility except Jihad. Hamas is less bad. Hamas has to run Gaza, cater to the people, so they have other considerations that force them to postpone the Jihad. Islamic Jihad does not have those restrictions. Hamas tries to control the Islamic Jihad in Gaza when it suits them but also lets them loose when it suits them.”

“It would be foolish to think that the Islamic mandate for Jihad is only targeting Israel. It is a struggle against anything that is not Islam. Just as there is BDS that targets Israel, there is a large movement in the Islamic world to boycott anything made in the U.S.”

Dr. Kedar referred to a manifesto written by the Muslim Brotherhood, Isalmic Jihad’s mother organization. The Musli Brotherhood’s strategic plan for the United States titled “An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” was written in 1991 by a member of the Board of Directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America and senior Hamas leader named Mohammed Akram. It was approved by the Brotherhood’s Shura Council and Organizational Conference and was meant for internal review by the Brothers’ leadership in Egypt. The document identified 29 groups as Muslim Brotherhood fronts, many of which are still among the most prominent Muslim- American organizations in the United States. 

The manifesto describes the first step in global Jihad as “Settlement”, the process in which Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood become a part of a host country.

“The process of settlement is a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Process’ with all the word means,” the Memorandum read. “The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

Dr. Kedar noted that this subtle, non-violent method of Jihad is nefarious and subtle but contains the same goal as violent Jihad.

“The Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement is a monetary Jihad,” Dr. Kedar said. “Anti-Israel activity on campuses is also a jihad. Usually, they will not name it ‘jihad’ because they are afraid to expose the real nature of their actions.”  

Though these activities may appear secular to Westerners, Dr. Kedar emphasized that they contain powerfully religious motivations.

A car bursts into flames after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on May 5, 2019. Photo by Flash90

“There is always a combination of religion and politics or worldly issues but in Islam, there is no separation between religion and state like there is in the West,” Dr. Kedar said. “They are two sides of the same coin. Any worldly issue is deeply connected to religion. This is in sharp contrast to Western culture. The battle with Israel is multi-layered but the basis for Arab nationalism is religion.”

“For our enemies, they see Allah as their chief combatant, the warrior that goes out to battle with them in the Jihad.”

Dr. Kedar served as an officer in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years and is intimately familiar with decision-making in the upper echelons of the Israeli government.

“Most Israeli politicians are secular cannot cope with the religious aspect of our conflict with Arab Muslim nations. They tell me not to turn it into a religious struggle but I respond that it already is a religious struggle. Religion is deeply woven into everything in the Arab states. Here in Israel, especially in the IDF, we try to avoid bringing religion into our perception and actions while coping with a conflict that is essentially religious.”