Izzedeen al-Qassam Brigades
|The Izzedeen al-Qassam Brigades (IQB) is the well armed military wing of Hamas, the Islamic terrorist movement that has governed the Gaza Strip since January 2006. While the IQB claims to “contribute in the effort of liberating Palestine” by “restoring the rights of the Palestinian people under the sacred Islamic teachings of the Holy Quran,” it seeks to conquer all of Israel, “from the south of Beer Sheva to North of Beit She’an,” by carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel, including numerous suicide bombings, rocket attacks, shootings and kidnappings.|
In June 2006, the IQB, which stages attacks on Israel from Gaza, claimed responsibility for kidnapping Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be held captive in the Gaza Strip. Following the June 2008 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the IQB reportedly released a letter stating that Shalit “will not see the light of day before all of our courageous prisoners, held in the occupier’s prisons will be released.”
After Shalit’s kidnapping, the IQB continued to fight Israeli military forces and attack civilians, launching rockets at Israeli settlements. The IQB claims to have launched over 470 Qassam rockets at Israeli settlements in 2006.
While Hamas and Fatah agreed on a national unity government, the IQB has increasingly been involved in fighting with Fatah forces, including the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s military wing. When Hamas successfully took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the IQB seized Fatah’s weapons and battled Fatah forces. The group has also claimed responsibility for kidnapping several senior security commanders with loyalties to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The IQB, which became the official armed wing of Hamas in 1991 when various militant cells merged, takes its name from Sheikh Izzedeen al-Qassam, a Syrian-born cleric. In the 1930s, al-Qassam created an anti-colonial and anti-Zionist militant organization called the “Black Hand.”
Although the IQB is the largest and best organized militant group operating in the Palestinian territories, it is an extremely secretive organization made up of independent terror cells. Israeli officials estimate about 7,500 active IQB members, although the total number of fighters is unclear due to the IQB’s level of secrecy.
To become members of the IQB, recruits must demonstrate “the moral requirements of piety, integrity, and steadfastness as well as the physical and educational requirements for the tasks assigned to them,” according to Abu Muhammad, an IQB field commander. The IQB offers its recruits basic training courses as well as weapons training and explosives training.
In response to reports that IQB sends its militants to Iran for training, IQB spokesman, Abu Obaida, said, “We have the right to get training in any place but without revealing it to the media because this is a secret of the Jihad.”
While IQB claims to be separate from Hamas’ political wing, a 2003 U.S. Treasury Department report refers to the distinction between Hamas’ political and military wings as artificial, saying that “the political leadership of Hamas directs its terrorist networks just as they oversee their other activities.” According to the Treasury Department report, Hamas does not have an open accounting system whereby the international community can ascertain whether or not the social wing finances the military wing. For instance, so-called humanitarian donations reportedly reward the families of Hamas suicide bombers. The IQB also uses Hamas’ Gaza-based network of activities, or Dawa, to bolster its recruitment campaigns with in Gaza.
In a March 2004 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Mohammed Deif, the IQB’s current leader, described Hamas’ political wing as “separated from its military wing. However, this does not mean that we cut all our contacts and become ignorant of the goals of the political leadership.” Deif, who was one of the technical engineers of the Qassam rocket, also said that the IQB is “inspired” by the political wing and “act according to them as we are the sons of the same movement. A large number of the military leaders of Hamas have been taught and raised among all movement's leaders.
Deif, who is listed as one of Israel’s most wanted terrorists, follows the leadership of several other IQB leaders, including Salah Shehadeh, who was killed by Israeli forces in 2002, and Yehya Ayash, the IQB founder killed by Israeli forces in 1996. Ayash, known as “the engineer,” is largely responsible for introducing suicide bombings into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Terrorism and Violence
The IQB has attacked Israel using Qassam rockets, Al Yasin anti-tank missiles and an array of firearms that it has gathered from various sources (including weapons seized from Fatah during the take-over of the Gaza Strip). Photos posted on the IQB’s Web site also indicate that the group possesses modern American firearms, though the quantity of these armaments is unknown. IQB also attacks Israel using suicide bombings, including against civilian targets inside Israel, and kidnapping.
The most publicized kidnapping occurred before Israel’s conflict with Lebanon in the summer of 2006. In June 2006, the IQB, in a joint effort with the Naser Salah El-Deen Brigades and the Islamic Army, claimed responsibility for kidnapping Israeli soldier Cpt. Gilad Shalit during a cross-border attack on a military installation near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in southern Israel. Two soldiers were killed and three wounded during the raid. Currently, Cpt. Shalit is believed to be held by the IQB at an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip.
In July 2006, the IQB issued a video communiqué showing six missiles being launched into the industrial center of Sderot. Another video was released in September 2006 announcing the killing of an Israeli soldier and broadcast images of the soldier’s personal belongings which included a gun and a cell phone. The IQB’s use of video communiqués is a part of a strategy to expose and glorify their terror tactics. Other videos available on the Web site show speeches, attacks and training sessions.
Many of the deadliest attacks carried out by the IQB are suicide bombings, including:
The IQB also carries out attacks that do not utilize suicide bombers. For example:
- November 23, 2006 - A suicide bomber injured 2 Israel soldiers in Jebailya.
- August 19, 2003 – A suicide bombing of a #2 bus in Jerusalem killed 23 people and wounded 130 in which 23 people were murdered and over 130 were wounded.
- March 5, 2003 - The #37 bus in Haifa was destroyed by a suicide bomber who killed 17 people and wounded 53.
- June 18, 2002 - The #32A bus in Jerusalem was attacked by a suicide bomber from IQB. 19 people were killed and 74 were wounded.
- March 27, 2002 – A suicide bombing of a hotel in Netanya on the first night of Passover killed 30 people and injured 140. This became known as the “Passover Massacre.”
- December 2, 2001 - A #16 bus in Haifa was hit by a suicide bomber. 15 people were murdered and 40 were wounded.
- August 9, 2001 - A Jerusalem restaurant was the site of a suicide attack in which 15 people were murdered and 130 were wounded.
- June 1, 2001 – IQB conducted a suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv discotheque, in which 21 people were murdered and 120 were wounded.
- November 15, 2006 – One person was killed and 5 others injured when 19 Qassams were fired from Gaza into Sderot.
- June 28, 2004 – A 4-year-old boy was killed when a rocket fired by the IQB landed in his nursery school in Sderot.
- April 6, 1994 – The IQB carried out its first car bombing, killing eight Israelis in Afula. January 1, 1992 - The IQB conducted its first terror act, killing a Jewish settler from Kfar Darom.
The IQB Web site is published in both English and Arabic; however the Arabic site is markedly more radical. For example, while the English version only briefly mentions kidnapping two soldiers in the 1980’s, when the IQB was known as the Al-Mujahidoon Al-Filistinion,” the Arabic site, which is updated more frequently and is much larger, mentions repeated kidnappings and boasts of shooting to death a “settler Rabbi” in Kfar Drom.
While the English version talks of “liberating Palestine,” “defending Palestinians” and “Evoking the spirit of Jihad,” the Arabic site clearly states that all of Israel, both acquired in 1967 and inside the green line, must be conquered “from the south of Beer Sheva to North of Beit She’an.” If it can not be done at once, the Arabic states, it should be done in piecemeal.
The two versions of the site seem to be geared to two completely different audiences. The English site employs terms like freedom, rights and combating terrorism, essentially portraying the IQB as a defensive organization facing a powerful enemy bent on destroying the Palestinian people. The Arabic site, however, touts the IQB as offensive mujahideen waging jihad. The Arabic site details every single attack and shelling on Israel in “military reports.” Images of martyrs are shown in paradise with their guns in hand and graphic images are posted of the dead, each synopsis emphasizing how religious they were and dedicated to Islam.
In March 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) forced the server that hosted the IQB Web site to close down, prompting a response from the IQB calling the act a “practice of Zionist terrorists against the Palestinians.” The group’s Web site has since been reactivated and its web host is now located outside of US jurisdiction in Malaysia.
Terrorist Groups Use Distinct Symbols To Convey Their Ideology And Goals.