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Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام
Leader Khaled Mashaal,
Ismail Haniyah,
Mahmoud Zahar
Founder Yahya Ayyash
Founded 1992 (1992)
Headquarters Gaza
Ideology Palestinian resistance, Sunni Islamism, religious nationalism

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام; named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, often shortened to Al-Qassam Brigades) is the military wing of Palestinian socio-political organisation 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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[1], the United States[2], Australia[3] and the United Kingdom[4].


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 [5].

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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 during the operation.[6]

Israel evaluates at 40,000 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.[7]

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.[8] 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
  • Ahmed Ja'abari - assistant to Mohammed Deif
  • Marwan Isa - assistant to Mohammed Deif
  • Raid Said - Gaza City commander
  • Ahmad al-Ghandur - commander in northern Gaza Strip and Jabalya refugee camp
  • Muhammad Abu Shamala - commander in southern Gaza Strip
  • Muhammad al-Sanwar - commander in Khan Younis

On July 12, 2006, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed a house in the Sheikh 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.[9]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

On 1 January 2009, Nizar Rayan, a top Hamas leader who served as a liaison between the Palestinian organization's political leadership and its military wing, was killed in an Israeli Air Force strike during Operation Cast Lead.[10] The day before the attack, Rayan had advocated renewal of suicide attacks on Israel, declaring, "Our only language with the Jew is through the gun".[11] A 2,000-pound bomb was dropped on his house, also killing his 4 wives (Hiam 'Abdul Rahman Rayan, 46; Iman Khalil Rayan, 46; Nawal Isma'il Rayan, 40; and Sherine Sa'id Rayan, 25) and 11 of their children (As'ad, 2; Usama Ibn Zaid, 3; 'Aisha, 3; Reem, 4; Miriam, 5; Halima, 5; 'Abdul Rahman, 6; Abdul Qader, 12; Aaya, 12; Zainab, 15; and Ghassan, 16).[12][13][14][15][16]

On January 3 2009 Israeli aircraft attacked the car in which Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, a leader of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam armed wing, was traveling. He subsequently died of the wounds suffered in the bombing.[17]

On January 4 2009 the Israeli Air Force struck and killed in Khan Yunis two senior Izz ad-Din al-Qassam leaders, Hussam Hamdan and Muhammad Hilo, both of whom the Israelis blamed for attacks against Israel. According to Israeli authorities Hussam Hamdan was in charge of rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ofakim, while Muhammad Hilo was reportedly behind Hamas' special forces in Khan Yunis.[18]

On January 15 2009, the Israeli Air Force bombed a house in Jabaliya, killing a prominent Qassam Brigades commander named Mohammed Watfa (the strike targeted Hamas Interior Minister Said Seyam, who was also killed)[19].

See also


Notable members


  1. ^
  2. ^ table of contents
  3. ^ Australian National Security - Listing of Terrorist Organisations
  4. ^ [1] [2]
  5. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Profile: Hamas commander Mohammed Deif
  6. ^
  7. ^ Tunnels feed new Hamas army - Israel News, Ynetnews
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Israel raids kill Hamas leader, take Gaza death toll past 400 AFP, 1 January 2009
  11. ^ "Israel fells key Hamas strongman, escalating conflict; says it's ready for ground invasion". New York Daily News. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  12. ^ "Israeli strike kills senior Hamas leader". Reuters. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  13. ^ "Strike Kills Hamas Leader as Israel Demands Global Monitors for Truce". FOX News. 2009-01-01.,2933,474824,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  14. ^ Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies, Amos Harel and Yoav Stern (2 January 2009). "IDF targets senior Hamas figures". Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  15. ^ The Associated Press (January 1, 2009). "Child casualties mount in besieged Gaza". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  16. ^ IOF Offensive on the Gaza Strip Continues for the 7th Consecutive Day Palestinian Centre for Human Rights January 15, 2009
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Jeroen Gunning; p179; Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence; Columbia University Press, 2008, ISBN 023170044X

External links


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