| Al-Qassam Brigades |
(Freedom fighters, Terrorists)
The Al-Qassam Brigades have the will and capability to launch attacks inside Israel. They have a substantial weapons inventory of light automatic weapons and grenades, improvised rockets, mortars, bombs, suicide belts and explosives. The Brigades fire ‘Qassam’ rockets and mortar shells into Israel on a regular basis. The group engages in military style training, including training in Iran and Syria on a range of weapons designed to inflict significant casualties on Israeli civilian and military targets.
During the 2023 Gaza−Israel conflict, the IDF published its intelligence about the Hamas military in the Gaza Strip and put the strength of the Qassam Brigades there at the start of the war at 30,000 fighters, organised by area in five brigades, consisting in total of 24 battalions and about 140 companies.
The Al-Qassam Brigades are named after Izz al-Din al-Qassam, a Muslim preacher and mujahid in Mandatory Palestine. In 1930, al-Qassam organised and established the 'Black Hand', a militant organisation that was opposed to Zionism and British and French rule in the Levant. Before dying in a dramatic shootout with British forces in 1935, al-Qassam exhorted his followers to embrace martyrdom and fight until the last bullet, which turned him into a role model for Palestinian resistance.
Created in mid-1991, the group was at the time concerned with blocking the Oslo Accords negotiations. From 1994 to 2000, the Al-Qassam Brigades have claimed responsibility for carrying out a number of attacks against Israelis.
According to the Al-Qassam Brigades, their aims are:
To contribute in the effort of liberating Palestine and restoring the rights of the Palestinian people under the sacred Islamic teachings of the Holy Quran, the Sunnah (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the traditions of Muslims rulers and scholars noted for their piety and dedication.
The Al-Qassam Brigades are an integral part of Hamas. While they are subordinate to Hamas' broad political goals and its ideological objectives, they have a significant level of independence in decision making. In 1997, political scientists Ilana Kass and Bard O'Neill described Hamas' relationship with the Brigades as reminiscent of Sinn Féin's relationship to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and quoted a senior Hamas official:
"The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders [from Hamas] and do not tell us of their plans in advance."
Carrying the IRA analogy further, Kass and O'Neill argued that the separation of the political and military wings shielded Hamas' political leaders from responsibility for terrorism while the plausible deniability this provided made Hamas an eligible representative for peace negotiations as had happened with Sinn Féin politician Gerry Adams.
- "How Hamas secretly built a 'mini-army' to fight Israel"
- "Iran’s ‘axis of resistance’: how Hamas and Tehran are attempting to galvanise their allies against Israel"
- "The Deadly Embrace: The Impact of Israeli and Palestinian Rejectionism on the Peace Process" Archived 5 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine University Press of America, Ilana Kass & Bard E. O'Neill, 1997