Terrorism and the Internet: the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Internet Network*

Children wearing uniforms and carrying wooden rifles march in a Palestinian Islamic Jihad kindergarten's graduation party.
The Internet as a platform for the battle of hearts and minds: children wearing uniforms and carrying wooden rifles march in a Palestinian Islamic Jihad kindergarten's graduation party. One of the children said that when he grew up he wanted to blow himself up in a bus full of "Zionists" (Picture from the website of the Jerusalem Brigades, the PIJ's military-terrorist wing, June 12, 2012).


1. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a relatively small terrorist organization, second in importance only to Hamas. It follows a radical Islamist ideology and is massively supported by Iran. During the Palestinian terrorist campaign (known as the second intifada) it gained notoriety for its deadly suicide bombing attacks in Israeli territory. Since Operation Cast Lead the PIJ in the Gaza Strip has been engaged in an accelerated military buildup and occasionally launches rockets into Israeli territory. With Iranian aid it has increased its capability to strike the Israeli home front with rocket fire, including the central part of the country, making it a significant military threat.

2. The PIJ makes extensive use of the Internet in the battle for hearts and minds it wages against Israel. In addition, the PIJ uses the website to disseminate its ideology and reinforce its position in the internal Palestinian arena. While the PIJ has a smaller Internet presence than Hamas, it is making an effort to increase it rapidly (six websites in 2007 compared with ten in 2012), and improve it technologically.

3. The technical-financial support for establishing the PIJ's Internet network comes, in our assessment, from Iran, the organization's main sponsor. Its close relations with and dependence on Iran would seem to indicate an interest in appealing to the Iranian audience, and one of its news websites (Shabakat nida' al-quds) appears in Farsi (the others appear only in Arabic). This site uses an Iranian ISP located in Tehran and it is registered to an Iranian.

PIJ Websites – General Description

4. The PIJ has a network of ten websites, six of them news-oriented. It also has sites for the Jerusalem Brigades (the organization's military-terrorist wing), its student wing, affiliated trade unions and a main forum. During the past year it opened a page on Facebook but so far with little content. Some of the PIJ's websites are formally affiliated with the organization and some make an attempt to obscure their links to it.

5. The PIJ's Internet presence includes four types of websites (as of September 2012):

            1) Type 1News sites

i) Paltoday (www.paltoday.ps)

ii) Shabakat nida' al-quds (www.nedayequds.com, which promises Turkish and English versions "soon")

iii) The site of the newspaper Al-Istaqlal (www.alestqlal.com/ar)

iv) Al-Quds News (www.alqudsnews.net)

v) The news website of the PIJ in the Gaza Strip (www.jgaza.ps)

vi) The Paltoday satellite TV channel website (www.paltodaytv.com/tv)       

2) Type 2 – The website of the Jerusalem Brigades, the PIJ's military-terrorist wing (www.saraya.ps)

3) Type 3 – Websites belonging to PIJ institutions:

i) Alrabeta al-Islamiyyah, the website of the PIJ's student wing (www.alrabeta.ps)

ii) The PIJ's trade union website (www.itehad.ps)

4) Type 4 – Social networks on Al-Aqsa Gate, the main forum website (www.alaqsagate.org). In addition, the PIJ is active on other forums. It also has a Facebook page.

6. The contents of the websites reflect the PIJ's militant Islamic ideology, its strong hostility and belligerence toward Israel and its hostility toward the West. The sites preach terrorism, promote the idea of death as a martyr for the sake of Allah (shahadah), suicide for the sake of Allah (istishhad) and holy war (jihad). Special emphasis is given to fostering the image of PIJ shaheeds who died during terrorist activities against Israel and turning them into idols and role models for the Palestinians, especially the younger generation. The websites also reflect a fundamental hostility toward the United States and the West in general and often serve the propaganda interests of Iran.

Technical Description [2]

7. While the PIJ's Internet network is smaller and of lower quality than that of Hamas, during the past five years it has made significant progress regarding both size and technology. It has grown from six sites in 2007 to ten today (September 2012), and has been technologically updated (supporting videos, RSS and Facebook, having an iPhone app, etc.).

8. In the past the PIJ's Internet network used mainly Western ISPs.[3] However, an updated analysis of the technical data of the PIJ's websites reveals that currently most of the sites are registered in the names of individuals in the Gaza Strip and possibly Judea and Samaria. The individuals are journalists and/or professional computer experts, who in our assessment are fronts, serving as middlemen between the PIJ and various companies. They are registered as webmasters, purchase Internet services from companies in the West (primarily the United States and Germany) and provide those services to the PIJ's websites.

9. Two prominent individuals registered as webmasters are Hasan Shakoura and Mahmoud Matar:

1) Hasan Shakoura has been registered as the webmaster of many PIJ sites, some of them through a company called Nepras for Media & IT, located in the Gaza Strip. In recent years he transferred most of them to Mahmoud Matar.

2) Mahmoud Matar (aka Abu Osama, Abu Khalil) is a computer expert from Jabaliya (Gaza Strip). He graduated from Al-Azhar University with a degree in computer engineering. He founded a company in the Gaza Strip calledATYAF for Web Development and IT, with offices in the Jawhara Tower in Gaza City.

3) Mahmoud Matar has a Twitter account and two personal Facebook pages. According to one page he is from Jenin and according to the other, Jabaliya. He sometimes represents himself as a journalist. His Flicker account showed pictures of him taken in Ramallah, Jenin, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as Amman and Aqaba (Hagana website, September 10, 2012).

10. In our assessment, using middlemen is intended to facilitate dealing with ISP companies, especially those based in Western countries (the United States, Germany). By doing so the PIJ increases its ability to survive, traditionally relying on Western ISPs.

* Follow-up and update of the September 23, 2007 bulletin, "The Internet in the service of terrorist organizations: the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Internet network and the service providers by which the organization is supported..."

[2] In preparing the technical analysis we were assisted by Aaron Weisburd and his US-based Internet site, Forum.internet-hagana.com.

[3] Three ISPs in the United States (as of September 2007), one in Canada, one in Iran (Qudsway, its main site) and one in Malaysia.