Not Only Hamas: Eight Factions at War With Israel in Gaza

As the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fight their way deeper into the hostile Gaza Strip, they face not only the Hamas movement but an array of other armed Palestinian factions that have taken up arms.

While these groups vary significantly in terms of ideology, influence and power, they are united in their dedication to establishing a Palestinian state through armed resistance against Israel. They have also openly demonstrated their willingness to coordinate during the ongoing conflict, sharing footage of their operatives working side-by-side and issuing joint statements…..CONTINUE READING HERE

Hamas – Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Hamas, Al-Qassam, Brigades, with, Rajum, rocket, launchers

An image published by Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades media channel on October 7, the day the group launched the “Al-Aqsa Flood” surprise attack on Israel, purports to show members of the Al-Qassam Brigades alongside “Rajum” 144mm short-range multiple launch rocket systems. Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades War Media

Hamas has been in control of the Gaza Strip since a violent rift with the secular Fatah faction that leads the West Bank-based Palestinian National Authority erupted in 2007, two years after the IDF’s disengagement from the coastal Palestinian territory. Officially called the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” Hamas is by far the most powerful and influential actor in Gaza.

Born as a Muslim Brotherhood splinter amid the First Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, against Israel in the 1980s, Hamas and its Al-Qassam Brigades, which is named after a Syrian Muslim preacher who helped spark Arab riots in British-ruled Mandatory Palestine in the 1930s, have gained a reputation for particularly deadly attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as amassing a vast arsenal of rockets and other weaponry. As with many Palestinian factions, it views itself as a national liberation movement, while Israel, the U.S. and number of European countries see it as a terrorist organization.

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Hamas has fought several wars with the IDF over the past 15 years, but the current conflict is being waged on an unprecedented magnitude since the group launched a stunning October 7 surprise attack, named “Al-Aqsa Flood” after the revered Islamic site in the disputed holy city of Jerusalem. The main goal of the current IDF operation, called “Swords of Iron,” is to eliminate Hamas once and for all.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad – Al-Quds Brigades
Palestinian, Islamic, Jihad, Al-Quds, Brigades, attack, Israel
Palestinian fighters bearing the insignia of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades move towards the border fence with Israel from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 7. While the Hamas movement led the unprecedented surprise attack, several other Palestinian factions announced their participation. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Islamic Jihad is widely considered to be the second most powerful group in Gaza. Like Hamas, it is dedicated to Israel’s destruction and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state, but it has focused almost solely on military means, having no formal governance or administrative duties in Gaza independent of Hamas.

Islamic Jihad has also gained a reputation for conducting deadly attacks in Israel since the 1980s and has acquired a sizable rocket arsenal. Israel has held Islamic Jihad responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians over rocket misfires, something the group vehemently denies.

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Along with its military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, named after the Arabic word for Jerusalem, Islamic Jihad has played a frontline role in the “Al-Aqsa Flood” alongside Hamas. The group has also readily advertised its ties to Iran, which has played a vital part in supporting both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their long-running conflict with Israel.
Popular Resistance Committees – Al-Nasser Salah ad-Din Brigades
Al-Nasser, Salah, ad-Din, Brigades, navy, video
Members of the Popular Resistance Committees Al-Nasser Salah ad-Din Brigades are seen at sea in this video published October 26 by the group alongside footage of its fighters taking part in the initial October 7 surprise attack against Israel. Al-Nasser Salah ad-Din Brigades

Widely seen as the third most powerful faction in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees was established amid the Second Intifada in 2000 among former Fatah members and is believed to be comprised of a loose coalition of fighters closely allied to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It’s also believed to have close ties to Iran and the group’s logo closely follows the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pattern similarly adopted by Hezbollah and other “Axis of Resistance” militia across the region.

The Popular Resistance Committees have conducted various operations against Israel since the Second Intifada, especially vehicle bombings, and fought during previous Gaza wars. Its military wing, the Al-Nasser Salah ad-Din Brigades, has regularly claimed attacks against Israeli forces in Gaza and the West Bank amid the ongoing “Al-Aqsa Flood.”
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades
PFLP, Abu, Ali, Mustafa, Brigades, mortar, attack
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades loads what is described as a 120 mm mortar in this footage published October 22 of an alleged operation in eastern Gaza. Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades War Media

The PFLP was founded as a Marxist-Leninist guerilla group in 1967 to serve as a vanguard for left-wing partisans that view Israel and so-called “reactionary” Arab governments as proponents of Western imperialism in the region. Its military wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, is named after the group’s late leader who was killed by the IDF in 2001.

The PFLP often made international headlines in the late 1960s and early 1970s through brazen airliner hijackings. Like most leftist Palestinian factions, however, its strength has suffered over the decades from internal rifts, the rise of Islamist tendencies amid the fall of the Soviet bloc in the 1990s and the domination of the political sphere by Hamas and Fatah in the 21st century.

Still, the group has sought to cross ideological boundaries and channel common opposition to Israeli-Palestinian peace accords to maintain an active presence in both Gaza and the West Bank. It conducted a number of notable attacks in the early 2000s, including the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evi and the 2003 Christmas Day suicide bombings in Israel. More recently, it has published videos of its fighters involved in the “Al-Aqsa Flood.”
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) – Jihad Jibril Brigades
PFLP-GC, Jihad, Jibril, Brigades, with, Hamas, PIJ
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command Jihad Jibril Brigades mans a light machine gun on the bed of a truck alongside a fellow Jihad Jibril Brigades member and members of the Islamic Jihad Al-Quds Brigade and Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades during an iftar ceremony in Khan Yunis, Gaza in this photo published on April 30, 2022. Jihad Jibril Brigades Military Information Department

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The PFLP-GC broke off from the PFLP just a year after its establishment, seeking a more militant nationalist approach to fighting Israel and creating a Palestinian state. Its military wing, known for the past two decades as the Jihad Jibril Brigades after the late son of founder Ahmed Jibril, conducted high-profile attacks against Israel in the 1970s and 1980s using southern Lebanon as an operating base. Among its most notable operations was the 1987 surprise attack on IDF troops known as the “Night of the Hang Gliders.”

In Lebanon, the group formed close ties with the powerful Hezbollah movement, and participated in the country’s civil war, largely in support of neighboring Syria. After a period of relative inactivity beginning in the 1990s, the PFLP-GC mobilized again to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when civil war erupted in that country in 2011. More recently, the PFLP-GC has also claimed some operations in Gaza amid the “Al-Aqsa Flood.”
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) – National Resistance Brigades
Democratic, Front, Liberation, Palestine, fighter, in, Gaza
Fighters from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) walk in a tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip on May 19, following a series of clashes between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian factions led by Islamic Jihad that would serve as a prelude to the deadliest-ever explosion of violence in October. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

The DFLP broke off from the PFLP in 1969, one year after the PFLP-GC’s defection, and officially seeks to establish a classless secular Palestinian state in which Arabs and Jews could coexist peacefully. But the group has long shown a dedication to militant means. One of its most notable operations was the 1974 seizing of an Israeli elementary school, resulting in the deaths of 22 children in a firefight that erupted when commandos of the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal stormed the site.

Like the PFLP, the DFLP participated in the First and Second Intifadas, though both leftist groups were and continue to be overshadowed by the Islamist Palestinian factions. However, the DFLP and its armed wing, known as the National Resistance Brigades or Omar al-Qassem Brigades after its former leader who was slain in 2021, has published videos showing its fighters active in Gaza and the West Bank.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades
Al-Aqsa, Martyrs’, Brigades, funeral, in, West, Bank
Gunmen attend the funeral of Al-Aqsa Brigades group fighters reportedly killed following a morning Israeli raid at the Jenin camp for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, on November 1. JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images

Like the Popular Resistance Committees, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were formed amid the Second Intifada in 2000 and have cooperated extensively with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The group has ambiguous ties to Fatah, sometimes purporting to act as its military wing, though Fatah has denied any official association.

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Other armed Palestinian factions, such as the Abd al-Qader al-Husseini Brigades have also called themselves the military wing of Fatah and the extent of their relationships with the organization and its many individual senior members remains a matter of debate. A short-lived amnesty deal was reached in 2007 that would have seen Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fighters surrender their weapons to the Palestinian National Authority, but the agreement quickly fell through upon the arrest of two alleged militants by the IDF.

Though named after the Jerusalem holy site at the center of the Second Intifada and numerous other flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades has, like Fatah, portrayed itself as a secular liberation movement. It has claimed a number of shooting and bombing attacks in Israel over the past two decades and has worked closely alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad both in past operations and the ongoing war.
Palestinian Mujahideen Movement – Mujahideen Brigades
Palestinian, Mujahideen, Brigades, training, in, Gaza, Strip
Fighters from Mujahideen Brigades take part in a military exercise at a site in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 19, 2022. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Initially formed as a faction of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement broke off as an independent entity in 2006 after the killing of its leader, Omar Abu Sharia. With a more Islamist orientation than the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement and its Mujahideen Brigades have expressed close ties to Iran.

It is also one of the most recent additions among Palestinian factions to U.S. counterterrorism efforts, having been blacklisted as a specially designated global terrorist by the State Department in 2018.

Footage shared by the group in previous years has shown it flaunting naval and anti-air capabilities along with small arms and artillery during training exercises. When the “Al-Aqsa Flood” erupted, the group announced its participation and has claimed a number of attacks on the IDF.
The IDF’s View
IDF, soldiers, fire, artillery, into, Gaza, Strip
An Israeli army soldier carries rounds from a stockpile towards a stationed self-propelled artillery howitzer firing from a position near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on November 6 amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian factions led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

While the IDF has conducted operations in the past targeting all of these groups, along with Palestinian other factions dedicated to armed resistance against Israel, Israeli military officials have emphasized their current focus on neutralizing Hamas first and foremost, given its leading military capabilities in Gaza.

Responding to Newsweek’s question during a recent press conference, IDF Colonel Moshe Tetro asserted that “our objective is to demolish the terror regime of Hamas,” as it is “the biggest military power in the Gaza Strip.”

But he warned that any group or individual that took up arms against Israel would be targeted.

“The second largest group is the Islamic Jihad, their power is basically a military power, they don’t have a political party in the Gaza Strip,” Tetro said. “But I will say very clear that anyone who holds a weapon against the State of Israel is doomed…is doomed. This is the way to win the war…..CONTINUE READING HERE