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Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

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Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Arabic: كتائب الشهيد عز الدين القسام ) (Variant spellings: Ezzedine al-Qassam, Ezzedeen al-Qassam, Izzedine al-Qassam, Izzedine el Qassam ) are the armed wing of the Hamas radical Islamist militant group. The group is named after the Syrian-Palestinian Islamist Imam and agitator, Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. The size of the group is not known, but their Web site claims that over 800 of their members have been killed. One may surmise that there are several thousand members in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Israeli Intelligence estimates that they have about 8,000 members. However, they probably contributed a large number of troops to the Executive Force formed by the Hamas in 2006, which was instrumental in routing the substantial forces of the Fatah. It is not clear if the numerical estimate considers the Executive forces and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades as separate forces. A different Israeli estimate puts the number of "Hamas fighters" at 20,000 (ref) . This number is currently quoted by Wikipedia(ref) as the size of the Al Qassam brigades, but it almost certainly includes Executive force and other groups.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and other groups have been expanding in Gaza following the violent takeover of the Gaza strip by the Hamas, allowing importation of weapons through a network of tunnels. It is believed that a group of Iranians are in Gaza training Hamas troops and that hundreds of them have also managed to go abroad for training.

Foundation of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

According to the Web site of the Ezzedeen al-Qassam group: (alqassam.ps/english/?action=aboutus)

In 1984 Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Maqadema, Sheikh Salah Shehada and others began to prepare for the establishment of an armed organization to resist the occupation. Their efforts concentrated on acquiring weapons for future resistance activity. However, members of the group were arrested and the weapons were confiscated. At the time, the group didn’t operate under the name of Hamas or Al-Qassam Brigades.


In 1986 Sheikh Salah Shehada formed a network of resistance cells called “Al-Mujahidoon Al-Filistinion” (the Palestinian fighters). The network targeted the Zionist occupation troops and traitors. The network continued to work till 1989; and their most famous operations were the kidnappings of two occupation soldiers: Ilan Sadoon and Avi Sasbortas [Sasportas--MEW] .  In addition, Hamas (officially established on December 14, 1987) formed other similar networks, such as “Abdullah Azzam Brigades” and “Majd,” the latter being a security branch against traitors.


In the middle of 1991, Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades became known as the armed branch of Hamas.

Thus, the group was actually formed prior to the First Intifada but was only given its name during or after the First Intifada. Evidently, the operational leader of the group when it was founded was Yahya Ayash, though the nominal leader was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of Hamas. Ayash was killed by Israel in 1995. Muhammad Deif became the head of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Deif has been targeted by Israel several times, but escaped. He is rumored to be a quadruple amputee, and may be in Egyptian custody.  

Mission of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

The Web site of the group describes their mission as follows: (alqassam.ps/english/?action=aboutus)

Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades (EQB) was established in the midst of the Palestinian Intifada (1987-1994) against the Zionist occupation. Established at the height of the occupation crackdown against popular and armed resistance, EQB considers its effort as part of the resistance movement against the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands, which has been ongoing since the British occupation. In light of this understanding, EQB aims: “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 Sunna (traditions) of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the traditions of Muslims rulers and scholars noted for their piety and dedication.”


For that to happen, the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades works to:

·       Evoke the spirit of Jihad (resistance) amongst Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims;

·       Defend Palestinians and their land against the Zionist occupation and its aggression;  

·       Liberate Palestinians and the land usurped by the Zionist occupation forces and settlers;  

It is clear that the "occupation" that the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades want to end is the existence of the state of Israel, in line with the charter of the Hamas movement as they point out:

,..Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands, which has been ongoing since the British occupation.

In their communiques, they refer to Israeli towns such as Sderot as "settlements" and to Israeli casualties in those towns as "settlers." The Arabic version of the Izz ad-Din al Qassam Web site is far more outspoken and frank about their goals than the English version. 

Emblem of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Ezzedine Al-Qassam (Izz ad din al Qassam Brigades) Emblem

A fighter masked by a kaffiyeh headdress at the center of a circle holds an M-16 rifle in his right hand and a Quran in his left. Behind him there is a green banner with the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith, written on it. The Al-Aqsa mosque, at the center of the circle, is a common feature of the emblems of Islamist Palestinian groups (compare with Islamic Jihad ). The green lettering above is a Quranic verse: “It was not you who killed them, rather it was Allah who killed them.” Below, in red, is the name of the group, “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Martyr Brigades.”

Attacks by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Martyr Brigades have carried out numerous militant attacks, including some that are often attributed simply to "Hamas" and some that may be the work of other groups and are often attributed to them:

  • June 25 2006: Complicity in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, though the operation was claimed to be that of the independent "Jayish al Islam" group.
  • September 9, 2003: Suicide bombing at Tzrifin hitchhiking post: 8 killed, 30 wounded.
  • March 27, 2002: Suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya on Passover: 30 killed, 140 injured.
  • August 9, 2001: Suicide bombing at Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem: 15 killed, 130 injured (also attributed to Islamic Jihad).
  • June 1, 2001: Suicide bombing at Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel-Aviv: 21 killed, 120 injured. (also attributed to Islamic Jihad).
  • July 30, 1997: Two suicide bombers strike in the Mahane Yehuda open-air market in Jerusalem, claiming at least 12 victims and wounding at least 150 others. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim responsibility.
  • March 4,  1996: Dizengoff Center Bombing - A suicide bomb is detonated in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center, killing 13, including children, and wounding at least 130 on the eve of Purim (anniversary of Goldstein massacre). Hamas claims responsibility.
  • March 3, 1996: A Hamas suicide bomber blows up a bus on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road, killing 19 people and leaving at least 9 wounded. The attack takes place on the same No. 18 bus line and almost at the same time as the previous week's attack.
  • Feb. 25, 1996: Hamas suicide bomber blows up a No. 18 bus near Jerusalem's central bus station, killing 26 people and wounding 48 others. Less than an hour later, a second Hamas suicide bomb explodes at a soldiers' hitchhiking station near Ashkelon, killing one and injuring 31 others. The two attacks are said to be in retaliation for the slaying in Gaza of Yehiya Ayash.
  • Oct 19, 1994: Hamas suicide bombing on a Tel Aviv bus kills 22, wounds 40.
  • July 24, 1994: Hamas suicide bomber blows up a Dan bus in Tel Aviv.
  • April 13, 1994: Suicide bombing in Hadera killing 9
  • April 6, 1994: Suicide bombing in Afula  killing 7.
  • April 16, 1993: Suicide attack at Mehola Junction in the West Bank. A  car bomb blew up outside a small restaurant. The suicide bomber and one Israeli were killed.

Ami Isseroff

November 12, 200808

Synonyms and alternate spellings: ;  Ezzedine al-Qassam, Izzedine al-Qassam, Izzedine el Qassam

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The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades