Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades emblem (al-Thabet, August 9, 2022).
Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operatives in Ramallah hold a protest rally for the release of Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid (one of the AAMB founders) because of the deterioration of his medical condition. As part of the protest they fired massive quantities of live ammunition into the air (al-Kawfiya TV, September 10, 2022).
Fatah flags at the funeral held for the three in Nablus (Fatah Twitter account, February 9, 2022).
Fatah summer campers leave for the camp in Nuwaimeh. The sign reads, "The Ibrahim al-Nabulsi camp," and the inscription on the headbands reads, "The heroic shaheed Ibrahim al-Nabulsi" (Facebook page of the Shabiba High School Committee of Fatah's bureau of mobilization and organization, August 19, 2022).
A group photo of the campers with senior Fatah figures, with posters of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi in the background (Facebook page of the security forces, August 20, 2022).
- During the last few months an increasing number of “brigades” have appeared in Judea and Samaria, military-terrorist networks calling themselves al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (AAMB). They attack the Israeli security forces and civilians in Judea, Samaria and inside Israeli territory.
- Although the AAMB are usually affiliated with Fatah, today it is the generic name for armed squads of Palestinian terrorists, most of which operate independently and have neither a central leadership nor an established structural hierarchy.
- The operatives have no political affiliation and most of them are young and live in the refugee camps in Jenin and Nablus, some of them with connections to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah. Some of them are high-ranking officers in the PA’s security forces, some have no clear political affiliation, and some are operatives of the Palestinian security forces who have no organizational affiliation. They see themselves as “redeeming” the PA from its security coordination with Israel. Armed and trained, they are capable of effectively carrying out terrorist attacks and inspiring others.
- Fatah and the PA are ambivalent, publicly claiming to promote the so-called “unarmed popular resistance,” while the AAMB publicly promote armed “resistance” [terrorist attacks] and a “military option.”
- To understand the connection between Fatah and the AAMB, a distinction has to be made between “official” Fatah, which is always conflicted because of the need display “resistance” activities while violating the ground rules agreed on with Israel, and Fatah operatives or security force operatives who ignore the official commitment. That duality is reflected in the inconsistent, diverse statements about the AAMB made by members of the Fatah movement. Some occasionally express reservations, and others publicly support, identify with and praise the armed “resistance,” while local Fatah branches support and openly aid it (al-Jazeera, August 9, 2022).
- The duality of the PA’s approach is also reflected in the way it responds to terrorist attacks for which the AAMB claim responsibility. Publicly, some of the senior PA figures condemn the attacks, primarily those carried out inside Israel territory, but often praise those who carry them out and represent them as role models and heroes who sacrifice their lives for the sake of the Palestinian people. The PA also issues mourning notices for them and senior Palestinian figures attend their funerals and go to the mourning tents to offer condolences. In the case of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, AAMB leader in Nablus, Fatah even named its summer camps after him.
- The growth of AAMB activity, which has significantly increased terrorist activity in the PA territories, is also linked to the weakening of the PA and its security forces’ control over events on the ground, especially in Jenin and Nablus.
- As a result of the AAMB’s prominent attacks and the boldness of their operatives, they have become iconic role models for young Palestinians. Their status has recently risen vis-à-vis the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas in Judea and Samaria, which until the renewed AAMB appeared, took credit for the “armed resistance” [terrorist attacks] against Israel in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem. According to political commentator Abd a-Mahdi Matawa, in one way or another, the “resistance” relies on Fatah and the PA leadership, and that is the variable which worries Israel the most (Hafriya website, October 1, 2022).
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades emblem (al-Thabet, August 9, 2022).
Resurgence of activities
- In recent months, especially in the north of Judea and Samaria, there has been an increase in armed attacks against the Israeli security forces. The forces carry out a variety of counterterrorism activities and have successfully prevented attacks. To a certain extent the attacks have been initiated by the PIJ – its Jenin Battalion, for example – which sought to reorganize the “resistance” in Judea and Samaria. Hamas, one of whose permanent objectives is to fan the flames as much as possible in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, is also participating and establishing its own armed military-terrorist groups. The general unrest has been exacerbated by the presence of other armed groups, including the AAMB, whose official connection with Fatah is unclear and confused.
- Operations of the renewed AAMB began during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021. For the first time in years, its operatives marched through the streets of Ramallah, firing their guns in the air, and announced that after a prolonged hiatus they were returning to action (al-Mayadeen, May 17, 2022).
- Muneir al-Jaghob, head of the Tanzim’s media unit, said the AAMB’s return to armed activities has not been organized. He claimed that the Palestinians’ current situation, with the negation of their rights, “persecution” and killing, along with the expansion of the settlements, lit a spark of “struggle” and “resistance” among figures in the Fatah movement. They found it suitable for use as an organizational and popular framework, after it had been limited and unable to “act” because of the PA’s security commitments. He added that the AAMB belonged to a younger generation which had not participated in the intifadas. As an example he gave Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, the son a of lieutenant colonel in the Palestinian preventive security forces. Al-Nabulsi had no personal knowledge of the intifadas but had most likely heard from his father stories of his detention and the “tortures” he [allegedly] underwent in Israeli prisons, and in the end chose the “path of confrontation” (aljazeera.net, August 9, 2022).
Right: Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades press conference in Nablus (Shafa, August 18, 2022). Left: Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades operatives in Nablus (qudsnet.com, February 10, 2022).
- People often relate to the AAMB as Fatah’s military-terrorist wing, it is not one of the movement’s official institutions, and as opposed to Hamas’ Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades and the PIJ’s Jerusalem Brigades, is not a formal, hierarchical military organization. Jamal Hawil, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, said in an interview that the AAMB was not a hierarchical organization headed by a military commander and had never had an organizational structure like the military wings of the other Palestinian organizations. Since, he added, Fatah had never officially decided to establish the AAMB and it was not mentioned in the movement’s charter, it was impossible to discuss its dismemberment. The AAMB existed as the initiative of loyal young Fatah operatives defending the Palestinian people. He said every district was an independent arena with squads in the cities, refugee camps and villages. Every squad or every squad operative decided what action to carry out. He added that adopting the idea of “armed resistance” had been the operatives’ own idea and had not been directed by any one individual. Rather, the operatives themselves planned, funded and acted, using their own modest resources and possibilities (al-Akhbar, August 11, 2022).
Jamal Hawil, senior Fatah figures in Jenin, during an interview
(al-Mayadeen TV Twitter account, May 18, 2022).
- Muneir al-Jaghob claimed the AAMB was a group of young Palestinians with similar objectives who collaborated with one another. He claimed their “armed activity” was not organized and they received no recompense. He also stated that among them were former operatives of the Palestinian security forces who had “returned, of their own accord, to ‘resist’ the occupation” (aljazeera.net, August 9, 2022).
- More could be learned about the AAMB from the al-Quds website after the shooting attack at the Jalameh Roadblock in which an IDF officer was killed. According to the website, despite the fact that the AAMB claimed responsibility and issued a video where they were seen wearing masks, they belonged to a new generation of Palestinians whose modus operandi was different from the past, they did not necessarily affiliate themselves with any particular organization, only with the idea of “resistance” [wiping Israel off the map”] (Quds, September 14, 2022).
- Based on the foregoing and on the documentation of AAMB activity in Judea and Samaria, it can be asserted that most of the groups are local, have no organizational hierarchy or central leadership, and carry out their attacks independently. They are composed of diverse operatives, including Fatah operatives from various generations, but mostly they are young, some the sons of PA security force operatives. According to Muneir al-Jaghob, most of them have common interests which brought them together, and they began coordinating their activities, paying their own way. A source from within Fatah, who insisted on anonymity, added that some of the district branches of the Fatah movement provide direct support for the AAMB (aljazeera.net, August 9, 2022).
- Thus, it can be assumed that the identity of the groups is based more on locality than organization. Even when a political dimension exists, the leadership on the ground is local and their actions vary from sector to sector and depend on existing conditions and circumstances. However, on occasion a link can be discerned between the groups and Fatah, sometimes in various announcements issued by the AAMB or in mourning notices for shaheeds issued by Fatah.
- The vague organizational affiliation of the groups is also reflected physically. They do not identify themselves with the same external markers. The yellow that characterizes Fatah is not always present. Some wear yellow headbands and others, such as operatives of the Lion’s Den network, do not identify themselves as belonging to any established organization their headbands are white.
- Although claiming that the activities of the AAMB are without momentum and inferior to those of the second intifada, Jamal Hawil related positively to the attacks carried out by Raad Hazem (the shooting attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on April 7, 2022) and Dia Hamarsheh (the shooting attack in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022). He said the two – like commander Daoud Zubeidi, brother of squad commander Zakaria Zubeidi who was killed at the age of 43 in Jenin – fought and sacrificed themselves. He claimed that was “proof” the AAMB did have momentum and was the most prominent presence in Judea and Samaria. He also noted that Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, who became an icon, and his AAMB comrades had directed the riots in Nablus, along with some fighters from other organizations (al-Akhbar, August 11, 2022).
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades operatives in Ramallah hold a protest rally for the release of Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid (one of the AAMB founders) because of the deterioration of his medical condition. As part of the protest they fired massive quantities of live ammunition into the air (al-Kawfiya TV, September 10, 2022).
Funding and support
- The media often claim that the operatives fund their activities themselves and buy their own weapons. However, an anonymous source in Fatah revealed that several Fatah branches in various districts in Judea and Samaria provide direct support for the AAMB. In addition, Salman Basharat, a political commentator and head of a research institute, said there were people in Fatah who were helping them because they believed that armed action was justified, but it was not connected to the Fatah movement (al-Jazeera, August 9, 2022).
- Jamal Hawil also said it was the operatives who planned, funded and carried out the “activities” with modest help from their organizations (al-Akhbar, August 11, 2022). He added that the AAMB in Judea and Samaria had far less ammunition and their operatives were less well-trained than the AAMB operatives in the Gaza Strip (al-Akhbar, August 11, 2022).
Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, leader and role model
- Ibrahim Alaa al-Nabulsi was born in Nablus on October 13, 2003. He father, Alaa Izzat al-Nabulsi, is a released prisoner who spent a number of years incarcerated in Israel. After his release he served in the PA preventive forces with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Both a maternal and paternal uncle are released prisoners. As of 2020 al-Nabulsi was wanted by both Israel and the Palestinian security forces. Along with other operatives, he established the Nablus Battalion, similar to the Jenin Battalion. During the months before his death he carried out a series of shooting attacks, including shooting at Jewish worshippers who came to pray at the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus. He became a symbol for Palestinian youth and many were influenced by the videos he and his comrades uploaded to the Palestinian social networks, some of them documenting shooting at Israeli security forces.
Fatah memorial notice for Ibrahim al-Nabulsi; Fatah logo at the right (Nabes, August 9, 2022).
- On August 9, 2022, Israeli security forces operated in Nablus and surrounded the house where Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, Islam Sabbouh and Hussein Jamal Taha were hiding on the fourth floor. They refused to surrender and exchanged fire for three hours with IDF forces, who had to deal local riots at the same time. The IDF forces finally fired an RPG at the fourth floor, killing al-Nabulsi and the others (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, August 9, 2022; al-Jazeera, August 10, 2022).
- The AAMB issued a mourning notice for Ibrahim al-Nabulsi (Abu Fathi), calling him an important commander in Nablus, and his comrades Islam Sabbouh, 25 years old, and Hussein Jamal Taha, 16 years old (al-Kawfiya TV, August 9, 2022). The Palestinian media reported al-Nabulsi as having been an operative in the recently-founded Nablus Battalion, described as an alliance of armed local Palestinians who were affiliated with the military wings of various organizations, including Hamas and the PIJ (al-Jazeera, August 10, 2022). The Fatah branch in the Nablus district also issued a mourning notice for al-Nabulsi.
(Facebook page of Nader Abu Muhammad al-Katnani, August 9, 2022).
Relations and links with Fatah
- The AAMB is not officially part of the Fatah movement, although it is generally referred to as “Fatah’s military wing.” Apparently Fatah’s support and solidarity are related to the broader and more significant issue of the legitimacy or lack thereof of the “armed struggle.” In many respects, Fatah is faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, its stated public position is that it supports a “popular non-violent resistance” and generally publicly dissociates itself from the AAMB’s independent armed activities. The PA security forces sometimes even persecute AAMB operatives because their independent activities emphasize the PA’s weakness and the security vacuum in various regions, especially northern Samaria. On the other hand, Fatah’s websites and social media are often used to glorify the AAMB, sometimes hinting they do in fact belong to the movement. That usually happens when Fatah apparently wants to gain public sympathy and support and prove it has not abandoned the “resistance,” especially since Hamas and the PIJ criticize it and snap at its heels.
- Thus some AAMB squads are affiliated with Fatah and others are not, and are not committed to Fatah or the PA and its policies, and therefore operate without taking into consideration its official political line and security limitations. In addition, they sometimes criticize Fatah and the PA, act independently and support “resistance” and “armed struggle.”
- Jamal Hawil categorically rejected the idea that Fatah did not recognize the AAMB, declaring that when “operations” [terrorist attacks] were carried out and the AAMB claimed responsibility, the members of Fatah’s Central Committee praised the shaheeds and often went to the mourning tents to offer condolences. He added that was done “taking into account obvious political considerations.” However, he claimed that Fatah movement members adopted the idea of “armed resistance” individually and without specific direction. Rather they themselves planned, funded, made preparations and carried out the “actions” using whatever means, however simple, they had at their disposal (al-Akhbar, August 11, 2022). Political commentator Suleiman Basharat said the Fatah movement was composed of groups which were organizationally loyal to various public figures. Some, because of political ambition or expediency, made a show of supporting the “armed groups,” but there were others who supported them because of belief in the “struggle,” none of which had any relation to the core of the Fatah movement (aljazeera.net, August 9, 2022).
Notice issued by Muneir al-Jaghob after the shooting attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. The Arabic reads, “Fatah” [in large letters] and underneath, a call for revenge (Muneir al-Jaghob’s Twitter account, April 8, 2022).
- Despite their ambivalence, the heads of Fatah and the PA have often showed reverence for the AAMB shaheeds. For example, when on February 8, 2022, three AAMB operatives were killed in Nablus, the reactions of senior PA and Fatah figures were exceptional with respect to both number and content, accusing Israel of killing them and declaring them heroes of the Palestinian people. Mahmoud Abbas was particularly outspoken in a telephone conversation with the people who had come to the mourning tent. The tent was visited by PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh and other senior PA figures, who came to offer condolences. In addition, many senior PA and Fatah figures, including Mahmoud Abbas, posted pictures of the three to the Palestinian social media in a way that indicated they were movement operatives. The secretary of the Fatah branch in Nablus declared a day of mourning for the city and encouraged Fatah operatives to clash with the Israeli security forces. Apparently such strong reactions reflected the rage at the killings and embarrassed the PA, carried out as they were in the heart of Nablus in broad daylight. They cause the PA to be concerned over another blow to its status, given the frequently-heard criticism of its collaboration with Israel. At the funeral in Nablus held for the three, Fatah flags were widely in evidence (as were Hamas flags, which were removed by operatives of the PA’s security forces).
Right: Mourning notice issued by Fatah for Muhammad Abdallah al-Saher Hamed (BinNassema@ Twitter account, June 25, 2022). Left: Mourning notice issued by the AAMB in Nablus (right to left, Ashraf an-Mabrouk, Adhem al-Mabrouk and Muhammad al-Dakheil (Ma’an, February 8, 2022).
Right: Fatah flags at the funeral held for the three in Nablus (Fatah Twitter account, February 9, 2022). Left: From Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, February 10, 2022.
Muneir al-Jaghob posted a notice glorifying Ibrahim al-Nabulsi. The Arabic reads, “Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, the face of the Fatah movement which terrifies the occupation. Al-Nabulsi, Fatah is here. Al-Nabulsi, Fatah has left.” The caption reads, “My last will and testament to you is that no one is to abandon his weapon” (Twitter account of Munir al-Jaghob, August 9, 2022).
- Fatah’s “adoption” of the shaheeds is also evident in its naming summer camps after Ibrahim al-Nabulsi.
Fatah summer campers leave for the camp in Nuwaimeh. The sign reads, “The Ibrahim al-Nabulsi camp,” and the inscription on the headbands reads, “The heroic shaheed Ibrahim al-Nabulsi” (Facebook page of the Shabiba High School Committee of Fatah’s bureau of mobilization and organization, August 19, 2022).
A group photo of the campers with senior Fatah figures, with posters of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi in the background (Facebook page of the security forces, August 20, 2022).
Relations with other organizations
- To a certain extent, the AAMB has relations with Hamas and PIJ operatives in Jenin, Nablus and other regions in Judea and Samaria, but their exact nature is unclear. The relations are manifested locally during fighting against Israeli security forces, for example, the Jenin Battalion. According to al-Akhbar, the PIJ provided Ibrahim al-Nabulsi with ammunition during the last weeks of his life (al-Akhbar, August 11, 2022). Hamas and the PIJ also encourage Fatah operatives who support the armed “resistance” [terrorist attacks] and do not obey the PA and participate when steps are taken to strengthen the “resistance” [terrorist organizations] in Judea and Samaria, to the PA’s embarrassment. However, apparently there is no formal framework for collaboration, and joint action seems to be mainly local.
Hezbollah help and support
- In recent months Hezbollah’s websites have covered the events in Judea and Samaria daily, emphasizing [Palestinian terrorist] “successes.” The Hezbollah-affiliated daily newspaper al-Akhbar has a corner called “The [West] Bank, the beginning of an intifada,” for articles and analyses. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah often relates to events in Judea and Samaria. For example, after the death of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi he sent condolences to his family, the families of his comrades and to all the shaheeds (al-Akhbar, August 19, 2022). Hassan Haballah, who holds the “Palestine” portfolio in the Gaza Strip, said they supported the arming of Judea and Samaria, adding that it had already begun and was not new. He said it could be carried out in various ways, among them through auxiliary organizations which would transfer the “support” to Judea and Samaria (interview with khamenei.ir, August 21, 2022).
- Hezbollah’s support for the AAMB today cannot be specifically identified, but in the past it evidently existed. In July 2004 Nasrallah gave a speech in which he admitted publicly for the first time that Hezbollah gave the Palestinians help (al-Manar TV, July 19, 20042). Once he had made the admission, local Fatah-AAMB leaders began relating publicly to the support they received from Hezbollah and Iran. On August 2, 2004, Abu Mujahed, a Fatah-AAMB commander from Nablus, said they did not hide the fact that some operatives were funded and encouraged by interested parties, such as those who received funding from Hezbollah and Iran (Ynet, August 3, 2022).
- Regarding support from Iran, at a meeting with Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace bloc, Yasser Arafat said the AAMB was not part of Fatah but a number of its operatives called him their leader. He said they received money from Iran through Muneir al-Miqdah, who had left Fatah in Lebanon several years previously (website of al-Khalij, the UAE, August 9, 2004). Zakaria Zubeidi, a Fatah-AAMB commander in Jenin, asked by an interviewer about the receipt of support [from Iran], answered that the rumor was untrue, but even if it were proved they did receive support, there would be nothing wrong because they were in favor of support from every “Arab source [sic]” (Arab.48.com, August 4, 2004).
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in the Gaza Strip
- There are dozens of military groups in the Gaza Strip affiliated with Fatah, and Hamas wants to make the AAMB squads subordinate to its command. In September 2021 the AAMB groups in the Gaza Strip announced they were uniting. According to a Hamas source, the union was the result of efforts invested by Hamas’ military wing. A different source claimed Hamas had to unite the squads so they would have one single representation in the terrorist organizations’ joint operations room, and that most of them had no link to the PA. According to an AAMB operative in Judea and Samaria, Hamas’ internal security summoned the Fatah squads [to a meeting] where they were called on to unite, otherwise they would be outlawed. They united into three factions: the Ayman Jawda squads (which announced the renewal of its activities in August 2022), the Salam Thabet Jaish al-‘Asifa squad and the Abd al-Qader al-Husseini squad, which is affiliated with Hezbollah and Iran and has close relations with Hamas. According to the source, some of the squads agreed to unite and to have one representative in the joint operations room, and some refused to be subordinate to Hamas and lost their independence (Araby Post, September 2021).
- In May 2022 Hamas apparently again tried to enforce its authority on the AAMB by holding a local conference in Jabalia, where the announcement of the appointment of new AAMB leader was made. The heads of the AAMB leadership then denied that the announcement, claiming it had been a local event without representation from all the districts and regions. An AAMB spokesman nicknamed Abu Thaer called the announcement a “conspiracy,” and said Fatah’s military wing, including all its fighters, were united under the name AAMB and they would settle accounts with those responsible for their “humiliation.” The AAMB in Jenin issued a similar announcement, noting that Zakaria Zubeidi was their leader, they were not part of any agenda and the Hamas conference represented only its organizers (al-Quds, May 21, 2022).
- Today several networks operate in the Gaza Strip with the name AAMB, the most prominent of which is the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nidal al-Amoudi Battalion. Its operatives are followers of ousted Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan, who supports them. It is based on former operatives of the Palestinian security forces which operated in the Gaza Strip before the Hamas takeover in 2007. It is better armed and equipped than the networks in Judea and Samaria and collaborates with the military-terrorist wings of Hamas and the PIJ. It has issued claims of responsibility for launching rockets at the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, including during Operation Wave Breaker (August 7 to 9, 2022). In January 2020 it posted a video to its website of a speech given by Abu Ahmed, who heads the network, at a rally held in Gaza City to mark the 55th anniversary of Fatah’s founding. He called on network operatives throughout Judea and Samaria to clash with Israel. The video also showed two masked operatives who were represented as belonging to the network in Judea and Samaria (website of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nidal al-‘Amoudi Battalion spokesman, January 8, 2020).
Right: AAMB notice (website of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nidal al-‘Amoudi Battalion, March 22, 2022). Left: Abu Ahmed gives a speech in the Gaza Strip (Twitter account of Abu Muhammad, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nidal al-‘Amoudi Battalion spokesman, January 8, 2020).
Right: Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nidal al-‘Amoudi Battalion launching rockets (YouTube, November 15, 2019). Left: Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine launching rockets (YouTube channel of the National Resistance Brigades, November 13, 2022).
- Formerly there were networks whose activities are unknown, as of October 2022. They include:
- The al-‘Asifa Forces – Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini Battalions: On November 28, 2019, it was reported that three or four terrorist operatives had been wounded in an explosion in the western part of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip (al-Quds, November 28, 2019; Ma’an, November 28 and 29, 2019). According to one report, the explosion occurred at an AAMB post situated near the al-Khansaa Mosque in Beit Lahia (al-Mushraq News, November 28, 2019). Thaer al-Abd Hamed, 29 years old, was wounded and later died (Ma’an, November 29, 2019). According to posts on the Palestinian social networks from his relatives, he was an operative in a network calling itself the al-‘Asifa Forces – Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini Battalions and was killed in a work accident during the manufacture of weapons (Facebook page of his cousin Muhammad ‘Ashur, November 29, 2019; Facebook page of his cousin Ali Taisir Ellouga, November 29, 2019).
Mourning notice issued by the al-‘Asifa Forces – Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini Battalions for one of their operatives (Facebook page of Muhammad ‘Ashur, November 29, 2019).
- The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nabil Masoud Units: In February 2019 a notice was issued by an organization calling itself the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nabil Masoud Units asking for donations of virtual currencies. The notice gave the addresses of virtual wallets where donations could be made. The Units are one of four AAMB networks which were active in the Gaza Strip and claimed coordination and close relations with Hamas’ military-terrorist wing.
A call for bitcoin and dogecoin contributions
(Facebook page of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Nabil Masoud Units, February 2, 2019).
Examples of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades activities
- During the past year AAMB terrorist networks have carried out a number of attacks Judea, Samaria and inside Israel, and armed squads have clashed with Israeli security forces, primarily in Nablus and Jenin. For example:
Shooting attack in Bnei Brak
- On March 29, 2022, a Palestinian armed with an M-16 assault rifle went to the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak driving a vehicle with Israeli license plates, after having entered Israeli territory illegally through one of the breaches in the security fence. He parked the vehicle and then entered and exited an apartment house. Next he went to a building where two stores were located, and when he saw they were empty he went out into the street and shot at a child riding a bicycle and a pedestrian, but missed both of them. He walked to a nearby street and shot at windows and then shot and killed two men standing near a grocery store. He then walked to the end of the block, turned the corner, shot at a man pushing a baby carriage and ran down another street where he came upon two mounted policemen who had been dispatched to the site. In the subsequent exchange of fire one of the policemen and the terrorist were killed. Five Israelis were killed, four civilians and one policeman (Israeli media, March 30, 2022).
- The shooter was Dia Hamarsheh. He was born in the village of Ya’bad, southwest of Jenin, in 1995. He was detained in 2016 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. His family is affiliated with Fatah, although according to information received by al-Jazeera TV, he was imprisoned in the prison’s PIJ wing. Al-Jazeera TV received a video showing him carrying a green Hamas flag while participating in one of its activities. According to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, he belonged to Fatah’s military-terrorist wing (al-Quds al-Arabi, March 20, 2022).
- The AAMB issued a mourning notice for the death of one of its operatives. It showed a picture of the terrorist with an AAMB logo in the corner. According to the notice, Israel can only dream of security and stability, and of extinguishing the “flame of the resistance” (AAMB Telegram channel, March 30, 2022)
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades mourning notice (AAMB Telegram channel, March 30, 2022).
- Mahmoud Abbas “condemned” the attack, apparently bowing to political pressure. The wording was weak and vague, stating only that the killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians [sic] would only cause the situation to deteriorate during the “sensitive time” of Ramadan and the Jewish and Christian holidays. He also warned the settlers not to exploit the event to attack Palestinians (Wafa, March 29, 2022). Hamas criticized Mahmoud Abbas for issuing a condemnation. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said it did not reflect the opinion of the Palestinian people and only served the Zionist narrative (Shehab, March 29, 2022).
- As opposed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah movement in Jenin issued a mourning notice eulogizing Dia Hamarsheh, claiming he had bravely defended the rights of the Palestinian people. Fatah in Jenin declared a general strike in Ya’bad and a general alert and mobilization in preparation for the possibility that IDF forces would invade (al-Andalou News, March 30, 2022).
Memorial poster for Dia Hamarsheh, a “hero of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the heroic shaheed, Dia Hamarsheh.” The Fatah logo is in the upper righthand corner
(YouTube, March 31, 2022).
Shooting attack on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv
- On the evening of April 7, 2022, a Palestinian armed with a handgun went to a pub on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv and shot at patrons sitting outside, killing two and mortally wounding one, who died in the hospital. Six others were wounded, three of the critically. The terrorist escaped. He was located the following morning near a mosque in Jaffa, and killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli security forces.
- The terrorist was Raad Fathi Zidan Hazem, 29 years old, from the Jenin refugee camp (Twitter account of photojournalist Hassan Aslih, April 8, 2022). His father was one of the senior figures of the first intifada, and was wounded and detained by Israel. With the establishment of the PA he served as a lieutenant colonel in the Palestinian general security forces before he took early retirement. His aunt is married to Bassam al-Sa’adi, a senior PIJ operative in Jenin (aljazeera.net, April 8, 2022). His father also said his son was a computer expert. A few hours before he left to carry out the shooting attack he ate the fast-breaking meal with his family (Shehab, April 8, 2022).
- The AAMB issued a mourning notice for him, stating he was an operative of the organization. They also called the attack the “natural reaction” to “Israel’s crimes” against the Palestinian people, the most recent of which had been the killing of a Palestinian in Jenin (AAMB Telegram channel, April 8, 2022). Fatah flags were hung in the mourning tent erected for him.
Shooting attack in Ariel
- On April 29, 2022, Palestinian terrorists carried out a shooting attack at the entrance to Ariel. Two terrorists drove to the guard post at Ariel’s western entrance, shot and killed a guard and drove away (IDF spokesman, April 29, 2022). According to the initial investigation, the two armed Palestinians drove a vehicle with Israeli license plates. After the attack they drove to an open area and torched the vehicle, and were apparently then driven to a safe house by accomplices.
- Immediately after the attack an AAMB announcement appeared on the Palestinian social networks claiming responsibility. However, the announcement was not official. On May 2, 2022, Hamas military-terrorist wing issued an official claim of responsibility.
Shots fired at Jewish worshippers at the Tomb of Joseph
- On June 30, 2022, while Jewish worshippers were entering the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus, Palestinians directed heavy fire at them, and threw Molotov cocktails and IEDs. Three Israelis were wounded, two civilians and one member of the Israeli security forces. The Nablus Battalion claimed responsibility for the attack, representing it as revenge for the death of Muhammad Marai, a Jenin Battalion operative killed on June 29, 2022 (Nablus Battalion Telegram channel, June 30, 2022). The AAMB claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out “in response to the crimes of the occupation” and settlers, who continued “attacking Palestinian lands [sic] and the refugee camps” (AAMB Telegram channel, June 30, 2022).
Ambushing and killing an IDF officer
- On the night of September 13, 2022, two armed Palestinian terrorists opened fire at an IDF force near the Jalameh Roadblock north of Jenin, killing an IDF officer. The terrorists were shot and killed. The two had been observed by IDF surveillance but did not appear to be armed. The AAMB claimed responsibility, stating the two terrorists were AAMB operatives, one of them a low-ranking operative in the Palestinian security forces.
- On September 19, 2022, Palestinians carried out a drive-by shooting at an Israel vehicle near Hawwara (near Nablus). No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged. Empty shells were found nearby. The AAMB claimed responsibility (AAMB Telegram channel, September 19, 2022).
- On August 18, 2022, shots were fired at an Israeli bus carrying worshippers from the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus. No casualties were reported; the bus was damaged. The AAMB claimed responsibility for shooting at IDF forces and Jewish visitors to the Tomb of Joseph (Nablus Battalion Telegram AAMB Telegram channels, August 18, 2022).
- The Nablus Battalion and the AAMB issued a claim of responsibility for shots fired at the Israeli security forces in Nablus on August 14, 2022 (Nablus Battalion Telegram AAMB Telegram channels, August 14, 2022).
- On July 5, 2022, shots were fired from a passing vehicle at an IDF force manning the roadblock at the entrance to the settlement of Homesh (northwest of Nablus). The fighters returned fire; no Israeli casualties were reported. A number of empty shells were found at the site (IDF spokesman, July 5, 2022). The AAMB claimed responsibility for the attack (Twitter account of Jihad Samir, July 5, 2022). The following day a wanted Palestinian suspected of carry out the shooting attack turned himself in to the Israeli security forces (IDF spokesman’s Twitter account, July 6, 2022).
- On September 13, 2022, shots were fired at an engineering vehicle carrying out maintenance work on the barrier along the border near Jalameh (north of Jenin) No casualties were reported; the vehicle was damaged (IDF spokesman, September 15, 2022). The AAMB claimed responsibility for the attack.
Picture from an al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades video of the attack on the IDF engineering vehicle (Ma’an, September 13, 2022).
Counterterrorism activities leading to the apprehension of wanted AAMB operatives
- On February 8, 2022, during an Israeli security force activity in Nablus, three Palestinians terrorist operatives were killed. The IDF reported they were AAMB operatives and responsible for a series of recent shooting attacks targeting IDF forces and civilians; they were planning to carry out additional attacks. A large quantity of weapons was found in their vehicle (Israeli media, February 8, 2022). The Palestinian media reported that they were Ashraf al-Mabslat, Adhem Mabrouk and Muhammad al-Dakheil, all of them AAMB terrorists.
Right: The scene of the attack (Paltoday, February 8, 2022). Left: Mourning notice issued by the AAMB in Nablus for three terrorists killed by IDF forces (Ma’an, February 8, 2022).
- On July 24, 2022, Israeli security forces operated to detain a number of Palestinians who had barricaded themselves in a house in the Kasbah of Nablus. Local residents congregated near the house, shot at the forces and threw IEDs at them. The forces returned fire. The forces who entered the house found large quantities of weapons and IEDs (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, July 24, 2022). The Israeli media reported that one of the wanted Palestinians was Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, an AAMB operative, who had managed to escape. He was also a target when terrorist squad was attacked in the center of Nablus on February 8, 2022, in which three terrorist operatives were killed (Israeli Kan 11 TV channel, July 24, 2022).
- The ministry of health in Ramallah reported that Muhammad Bashar Azizi, 25 years old, and Abd al-Rahman Jamal Suliman Sabah (aka Abud Sabah), 28 years old, had been killed in Nablus, and that six other Palestinians had been wounded (ministry of health in Ramallah Facebook page, July 24, 2022). Abd al-Rahman Sabah was the nephew of Anan Sabah, a senior figure in the AAMB in Nablus. He was killed by Israeli security forces on December 26, 2009 (Facebook page of RjalNablsAlashdalyAlada, July 24, 2022; Wafa, December 26, 2009). The AAMB issued a mourning notice stating the two belonged to the AAMB’s Nablus Battalion (AAMB Telegram channel, July 24, 2022).
Mourning notice issued by the AAMB for Bashar Azizi (left) and Abd al-Rahman Sabah (right) (AAMB Telegram channel, July 24, 2022).
- On September 28, 2022, the ministry of health in Ramallah reported that four Palestinians were killed in a riot in the Jenin refugee camp (ministry of health in Ramallah website, September 28, 2022). The AAMB issued a mourning notice for the four, stating that three of them Abd al-Rahman Fathi Hazem, Ahmed Nazmi al-Awneh and Muhammad Mahmoud al-Waneh were operatives in a network in the Jenin refugee camp (AAMB Telegram channel, September 28, 2022). The Shaheed Battalion of the AAMB said in an announcement that Abd al-Rahman Hazem was the founder of the joint operations room in the Jenin refugee camp; Ahmed Nazmi al-Awneh was a commander In the Shaheed Battalion of the AAMB in the Jenin refugee camp; and Muhammad al-Waneh was an engineer who specialized in making IEDs.
Right: Mourning notice issued by the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades stating that Hazem, al-Waneh and al-Awneh were network operatives (al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades Telegram channel, September 28, 2022). Left: Notice issued by the Shaheeds’ Battalion (Twitter account of ‘Alam Fateh, September 28, 2022). The announcement also stated that the fourth Muhammad Abu Na’seh was a PIJ commander in Jenin (Twitter account of Alam Fateh, September 28, 2022).
- On September 11, 2022, the ministry of health in Ramallah announced that Hamad Mustafa Abu Jalda, 24 years old, from the Jenin refugee camp, had died of stomach wounds incurred on September 6, 2022, during the demolition of Raad Hazem’s house (the Dizengoff Street shooter). According to the announcement, Abu Jalda belong to the AAMB (Watan, September 11, 2022). The AAMB announced his death, stating he was called Abu Mustafa and that he belonged to the organization’s Shaheed Battalion (AAMB Twitter account, September 11, 2022).
Right: AAMB operative Hamad Mustafa Abu Jalda holding an M-16 assault rifle (AAMB Twitter account, September 11, 2022). Left: Mourning notice issued by the AAMB for Hamad Abu Jalda (Masdar News, September 11, 2022).
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades milestones
- The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is the generic name for armed groups which have no organizational hierarchy, most of which are independent and composed of young Fatah and Palestinian security force operatives. To a certain extent it can be said that each group is unique and has its own leadership. The milestones in the AAMB’s history are the following:
- The AAMB officially began operations in October 2000, during the first days of the second intifada, as a network of military squads affiliated with Fatah. Initially their activity was limited to shooting attacks and killing Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria, and until 2001 they were the primary terrorist network in the PA territories. The killing of senior AAMB figure Ra’ed Karmi in Tulkarm on January 14, 2002, caused them to increase their activity and they began carrying out terrorist attacks inside Israeli. The year 2002 is considered their most active.
- Several years later internal disputes led to the appearance of local groups is Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip with various names and their effectiveness was weakened. In addition, the Palestinian security forces began infiltrating them, one of the signs of the anarchy that reigned between 2005 and 2007.
- In 2007 Mahmoud Abbas issued a “presidential” edict for the dismantling of the AAMB. In July 2007, 178 operatives agreed to disarm and turn their weapons over to PA as part of what was known as “the agreement of the wanted [operatives].” That officially ended the organization’s existence in Judea and Samaria, contributing to a decline in the level of terrorism in Judea and Samaria. During 2007 and 2008 the PA carried out security operations against them
- After the official dismantling of the AAMB, operatives established independent squads which carried out individual operations, like Zakaria Zubeidi, a former AAMB commander, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and a prisoner. AAMB operatives lacked a central command, were often persecuted by the Palestinian security forces and many of them were detained by the PA.
- In 2010 an agreement was formulated between the AAMB and Israel through the PA, according to which the names of operatives would be crossed off the list of wanted terrorists in return for their abandoning violence and turning their weapons over to the PA. Most of them were absorbed by the security forces, while others kept their weapons and were sought by the PA.
- In April 2016 the Palestinian security forces clashed with the operatives of the AAMB after an attempt to detain a suspect in Nablus. Several months later the Palestinian security forces detained a local leader who belonged to the AAMB and he was beaten to death. His death caused local protests.
 For further information see the July 3, 2022 bulletin, "The Jenin Battalion: a non-aligned organization of terrorists operating against the Israeli security forces." ↑
 Jamal al-Hawil is a senior Fatah figure in Jenin, a member of the movement's Revolutionary Council, who fought in the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield and was sentenced to various terms of incarceration in Israeli jails. ↑
 Which in any case includes lethal events. ↑
 For further information, see the February 15, 2022 bulletin, "Fatah and the Palestinian Authority adopt the three terrorists killed in Nablus." ↑