Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام; named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam) is the military wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas. Created in 1992 under the direction of Yahya Ayyash, the primary objective of the group was to build a coherent military organization to support the goals of Hamas, which was at the time concerned with blocking the Oslo Accords negotiations. From 1994 to 2000, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades carried out a number of attacks against both Israeli soldiers and civilians that endangered the peace process, ultimately giving way to the "Al-Aqsa Intifada", which Hamas enthusiastically supported.

At the beginning of the Second Intifada, the group became a central target of Israel. The group's strength and its ability to carry out complex and lethal attacks surprised many observers. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades operated several cells in the West Bank, but most of them were destroyed by 2004 following numerous Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operations in the region. In contrast, Hamas retained a forceful presence in the Gaza Strip, generally considered its stronghold.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union [http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00640066.pdf] , the United States [ [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/45313.pdf table of contents ] ] , Australia [ [http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/agd/www/nationalsecurity.nsf/AllDocs/95FB057CA3DECF30CA256FAB001F7FBD?OpenDocument Australian National Security - Listing of Terrorist Organisations ] ] and the United Kingdom [http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/legislation/current-legislation/terrorism-act-2000/proscribed-terrorist-groups?version=1] http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_340/l_34020051223en00640066.pdf] .

Organization and structure

The fighters' identities and positions in the group often remain secret until their death; even when they fight against Israeli incursions, all the militants wear a characteristic black hood on which the group's green headband is attached. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades operate on a model of independent cells and even high-ranking members are often unaware of the activities of other cells. This allows the group to consistently regenerate after member deaths. During the al-Aqsa intifada, the leaders of the group were routinely targeted by the IDF in numerous airstrikes that killed many members, including Salah Shahade and Adnan al-Ghoul. The current leader of the brigades, Mohammed Deif, remains at large and is said to have survived at least five assassination attempts [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2284055.stm BBC NEWS | Middle East | Profile: Hamas commander Mohammed Deif ] ] .

Operations and activities

In 2003 and 2004 the brigades in Gaza developed a powerful organization that was able to resist many IDF incursions, including the siege of Jabalya in October 2004. However, these battles took a heavy toll in the brigade's ranks, which saw a great deal of losses. The group, however, continued to gain strength and remained capable of carrying out attacks in the following years. The brigades can count on a huge pool of individuals seeking to join its ranks, an important logistical organization which supplies the militants with weapons smuggled in Rafah using tunnels, and talented engineers who provide the fighters with homemade weapons such as the al-Bana, the Batar, the Yasin and the Qassam rocket.

In early 2005 the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades appeared to stand by a truce negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel. However the brigades took advantage of the truce to regroup, while some militants continued to launch periodic mortar and Qassam rocket barrages toward Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades staged several rallies in which they displayed thousands of fighters and an assortment of weaponry in Gaza. These celebrations ended abruptly when, on September 23, twenty Palestinians were killed as a car carrying Qassam rockets exploded among a dense crowd. Since this incident, the brigades refrained from staging public displays of force as well as launching attacks at Israel, which, in turn, refrained from targeting Hamas members in assassinations and raids. Despite occasional and brief flare-ups of violence, the brigades generally respected this truce until the beginning of June 2006. The Palestinian Authority has been, during this period, under intense pressure from Israel and the international community to disarm Hamas, but fears of heavy resistance from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and a possible civil war, coupled with a victory of the movement in the 2006 legislative elections, prevented any such attempts. As a result, it is widely believed that the brigades stockpiled thousands of homemade weapons and projectiles during 2005 and 2006 and were actively attempting to rebuild their destroyed cells in the West Bank.

In May 2006 a police force was formed in Gaza, consisting of thousands of brigade fighters. It aimed to restore law and order in the city but instead broke out into clashes with Fatah militias. On June 10, 2006, after the Gaza beach blast in which seven civilians died, the brigades announced a cessation of the truce with Israel. In the following hours, they claimed responsibility for launching Qassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, and threatened to step up their attacks.

In June and July 2006, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades were involved in the operation which led to the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and in the subsequent heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip following Operation Summer Rains, launched by the IDF. It was the first time in over 18 months that the brigades were actively involved in fighting against Israeli soldiers. As of May 2007, the brigades acknowledged they lost 163 fighters while defending against the IDF operation. [http://www.alqassam.ps/arabic/wfaa_alahrar/sohdaa1.htm]

Israel evaluates at 20,000 the number of fighters now in the brigades, and claim they receive extensive training as well as more sophisticated weapons, including long-range rockets as well as guided anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3311372,00.html Tunnels feed new Hamas army - Israel News, Ynetnews ] ]

The brigades are currently believed to operate with increasing independence from the political wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and appear currently engaged in a massive buildup. Israeli intelligence estimates that Iranian cadres are possibly in the Gaza Strip providing training to new units. In addition, Israeli official monitoring the Rafah crossing evaluate that dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of fighters traveled abroad to receive advanced training in Iran or Syria. It is also widely perceived that Hamas members are currently establishing a complex network of tunnels and bunkers spreading from the north of Gaza City to Beit Lahia and encompassing the Jabalya refugee camp, in prevision of an Israeli military operation.

Current leaders

On September 3, 2005, after Israel's withdrawal from settlements in the Gaza Strip, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam revealed for the first time the names and functions of its seven commanders on its website as well as in a printed bulletin distributed to Palestinians. [http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050903/ap_on_re_mi_ea/israel_palestinians_27] Most of the information published, including pictures of three leaders, was reportedly already known by Israel's intelligence services. According to the bulletin, the current leaders of the brigades are:

*Mohammed Deif - general commander [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=82 alqassam.ws ] ]
*Ahmed Jaberi - assistant to Mohammed Deif [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=81 alqassam.ws ] ]
*Marwan Isa - assistant to Mohammed Deif [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=80 alqassam.ws ] ]
*Raid Said - Gaza City commander [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=83 alqassam.ws ] ]
*Ahmad al-Ghandur - commander in northern Gaza Strip and Jabalya refugee camp [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=76 alqassam.ws ] ]
*Muhammad Abu Shamala - commander in southern Gaza Strip [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=77 alqassam.ws ] ]
*Muhammad al-Sanwar - commander in Khan Younis [ [http://www.alqassam.ws/arabic/?action=chat&&nid=78 alqassam.ws ] ]

On July 12, 2006, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed a house in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, where Mohammed Deif, Ahmad al-Ghandur and Raid Said were meeting. The three-story house was completely leveled, killing Hamas official Nabil al-Salmiah, his wife and their five children, but the 3 leaders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades all escaped with moderate wounds. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/737324.html]

On July 12 2006 In the early morning hours Israeli aircraft blasted a house where high-level Hamas leaders were meeting. Deif survived the blast, but severely injured his spine, which could leave him paralyzed . According to some unnamed Palestinian sources, Deif's condition is very serious, with him becoming a quadruple amputee as a result.Fact|date=November 2007

On 6 September 2006, Egyptian newspaper Al-Wafd reported that Deif was captured by Egyptian authorities while attempting to enter Egypt to get health care for injuries caused by the Israeli attack in July.Fact|date=November 2007

ee also

[http://www.sderotmedia.com about the qassam-sderot]
*Qassam rocket

Notable members

*Yahya Ayash
*Adnan al-Ghoul
*Salah Shahade
*Wa'el Nassar
*Salama Hamad
*Imad Abbas
*Nidal Fat'hi Rabah Farahat
*Abu Obeida, spokesman


External links

* [http://www.alqassam.ps/english Ezzedeen AL-Qassam Brigades Information Office] (English)

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