Ramadan Abdullah Shallah

Ramadan Abdullah Shallah was the former secretary-general of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who led the group from 1995 until 2018. Under Shallah’s leadership, PIJ launched thousands of rockets at Israel from Gaza and carried out dozens of suicide bombings.“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224829.htm; Efraim Benmelech and Claude Berrebbi, “Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, no. 3 (Summer 2007): 223–38. He maintained he would never recognize Israel and that there is no hope for a two-state solution.Scott Atran and Robert Axelrod, “Interview with Ramadan Shallah, Secretary General, Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” Perspectives on Terrorism, November 29, 2010, http://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/95. In October 2018, PIJ elected Ziad al-Nakhalah as its new secretary-general, six months after Shallah reportedly fell into a coma following surgery.“Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad names new leader,” Associated Press, September 28, 2018, https://apnews.com/d14e7e6a4a68481980b6db8052853f03; “Palestine’s Islamic Jihad denies leader was in coma in Lebanon,” Middle East Monitor, April 10, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180410-palestines-islamic-jihad-denies-leader-was-in-coma-in-lebanon/; “Palestinian Islamic Jihad chooses new leader, remains close to Iran,” Times of Israel, September 28, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-islamic-jihad-chooses-new-leader-remains-close-to-iran/. Shallah died on June 6, 2020.Nour Abu Aisha and Mohamed Majed, “Ramadan Shalah: Palestinian advocate of Jerusalem,” Anadolu Agency, June 6, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/life/ramadan-shalah-palestinian-advocate-of-jerusalem/1868298; “Former Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah dies at 62,” Times of Israel, June 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/former-palestinian-islamic-jihad-leader-shalah-dies-at-62/.

In the early 1990s, Shallah taught at the University of South Florida (USF). He returned to Gaza in 1995. Susan Aschoff, “Jihad Leader Emerged from Shadows of USF,” St. Petersburg Times, February 21, 2003, http://www.sptimes.com/2003/02/21/TampaBay/Jihad_leader_emerged_.shtml. He became PIJ’s secretary-general later that year after the death of his predecessor, Fathi Shaqaqi, in Malta. Susan Aschoff, “Jihad Leader Emerged from Shadows of USF,” St. Petersburg Times, February 21, 2003, http://www.sptimes.com/2003/02/21/TampaBay/Jihad_leader_emerged_.shtml. In 2003, a U.S. federal grand jury accused Shallah of providing material support to PIJ, conspiracy to kill and maim persons abroad, racketeering, immigration fraud, perjury, extortion, and obstruction of justice. “Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Arrested, Charged With Racketeering and Conspiracy to Provide Support to Terrorists,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 20, 2003, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2003/February/03_crm_099.htm.

Iran provides PIJ with material support including weaponry and funding. “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224829.htm. Reports surfaced in July 2012 that Shallah and the PIJ leadership had moved to Iran amidst the ongoing Syrian civil war. “Islamic Jihad Leadership Relocates to Iran,” Asharq Al-Awsat, July 22, 2012, http://www.aawsat.net/2012/07/article55241265. PIJ denied its leadership had left Syria, “Islamic Jihad Leadership Relocates to Iran,” Asharq Al-Awsat, July 22, 2012, http://www.aawsat.net/2012/07/article55241265. though Shallah regularly praised PIJ’s relationship with Iran Lena Odgaard, “Head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Praises Relationship with Iran,” Al-Monitor, November 30, 2012, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/shallah-interview.html. and met with Iranian officials. Asmaa al-Ghoul, “Hamas Isolated as Iran Boosts Ties with Islamic Jihad, Fatah,” Al-Monitor, February 12, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulseen/originals/2014/02/islamic-jihad-fatah-hamas-iran-palestinians.html.

In April 2018, Shallah reportedly fell into a coma after being hospitalized in Lebanon for heart surgery. PIJ denied the reports of Shallah’s illness.Palestine’s Islamic Jihad denies leader was in coma in Lebanon,” Middle East Monitor, April 10, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180410-palestines-islamic-jihad-denies-leader-was-in-coma-in-lebanon/. Nonetheless, PIJ elected Ziad al-Nakhalah to replace Shallah that October.“Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad names new leader,” Associated Press, September 28, 2018, https://apnews.com/d14e7e6a4a68481980b6db8052853f03; “Palestine’s Islamic Jihad denies leader was in coma in Lebanon,” Middle East Monitor, April 10, 2018, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180410-palestines-islamic-jihad-denies-leader-was-in-coma-in-lebanon/; “Palestinian Islamic Jihad chooses new leader, remains close to Iran,” Times of Israel, September 28, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-islamic-jihad-chooses-new-leader-remains-close-to-iran/. Shallah reportedly never awoke from his coma and died on June 6, 2020, at the age of 62. PIJ did not identify where Shallah died but news reports suspected he was in Lebanon.Nour Abu Aisha and Mohamed Majed, “Ramadan Shalah: Palestinian advocate of Jerusalem,” Anadolu Agency, June 6, 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/life/ramadan-shalah-palestinian-advocate-of-jerusalem/1868298; “Former Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah dies at 62,” Times of Israel, June 6, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/former-palestinian-islamic-jihad-leader-shalah-dies-at-62/.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Type(s) of Organization:
Non-state actor, terrorist, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Iranian-sponsored, Islamist, jihadist, Palestinian, Salafist, Sunni, takfiri
Position(s):
Former Secretary-General (deceased)

PIJ is a Palestinian Islamist terrorist group sponsored by Iran and Syria. Founded in 1979 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, PIJ is the second-largest terrorist group in Gaza today (after Hamas).

  • Designations
  • Rhetoric

United States

  • The Department of the Treasury designated Shallah a Specially Designated Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 12947 on November 2, 1995.“Specially Designated Nationals,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 2, 1995, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Documents/sdnew95.txt.

    On February 20, 2003, the Department of Justice charged Shallah and other suspected PIJ members with operating a racketeering enterprise from 1984 to present (2003) that engaged in violent activities, conspiracy within the U.S. to kill and main persons abroad, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to PIJ, conspiracy to violate emergency economic sanctions, engaging in various acts of interstate extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice, and immigration fraud.“Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Arrested, Charged With Racketeering and Conspiracy to Provide Support to Terrorists,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 20, 2003, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2003/February/03_crm_099.htm.

    On February 24, 2006, the FBI listed Shallah as one of its most wanted terrorists and offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture or conviction.“Most Wanted Terrorists: Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah,” FBI, accessed November 11, 2014, http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/ramadan-abdullah-mohammad-shallah.

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