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 Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades

(Also known as: Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades and Izz al-Din Al-Qassem Brigades)

This statement is based on publicly available information about Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. To the Australian Government’s knowledge, these details are accurate and reliable and have been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney‑General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  • is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  • advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Details of the organisation

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist organisation and political party founded in 1987 during the uprising known as the first intifada. Hamas began as a branch of, and retains an ideological affinity with, the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is a multifaceted organisation that maintains extensive social service networks and is largely responsible for the administration and provision of government services, including health, education and security, to Gaza’s inhabitants. Despite previous power struggles between Hamas and Fatah, the primary Palestinian authority in the West Bank, the two groups have attempted to establish a unity government in 2014.

Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (hereafter referred to as the Brigades) were officially established circa 1991 to provide Hamas with a paramilitary capability. Originally, the Brigades were organised secretively, comprising compartmentalised cells that specialised in terrorist attacks, assassinations and kidnappings inside Israel. The Brigades were forced to develop, at least partially, into a more traditional military unit following Hamas forming government in Gaza in 2007 and the announcement of a unity government with Fatah in 2014 (the Australian Government does not recognise Hamas as a legitimate government). The Brigades operate predominantly in Gaza, with limited representation in the West Bank.

Objectives

The Brigades seek to establish a Palestinian Islamist state comprising Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, destroying Israel as a political entity in the process. Due to the disparity in the military capabilities of the Brigades and Israel, the Brigades have adopted terrorist tactics in their efforts to defeat Israel, including indiscriminate rocket attacks, suicide bombings and kidnappings. The Brigades have never demonstrated intent to conduct attacks outside of Israel and the Palestinian Territories or to target interests of countries other than Israel.

Leadership and membership

The size of the Brigades is difficult to determine. According to 2014 estimates, the Brigades have several thousand full-time members and thousands of reservists and trainees. The proportion of members assigned to more standard military and security duties, and those involved in planning terrorist attacks, is unknown.

The Brigades are structured as a distinct and discrete organisation separate from Hamas’s political structures. Accordingly, the Brigades operate with a significant degree of independence. The leader of the Brigades is Mohammed Deif, who has held the position since 2002. The Brigades reaffirmed his position in 2015. The Brigades maintain their own website, including an English-language version, which publicises their aims and activities. It is used to claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, praise other groups’ terrorist attacks against Israel and announce the deaths of Brigades members killed in Israeli counter-terrorism actions. The Brigades also publish propaganda with the intention of intimidating Israel. In March 2015, a Brigades-linked video released online stated that Israelis are not safe from the Brigades. 

Hamas’s funding comes from a range of official and private sources. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the largest sources of financial aid. Hamas collects taxes within Gaza and also receives funds through charitable donations. The amount of money allocated to the Brigades is difficult to ascertain.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Directly or indirectly engaged in the doing of terrorist acts 

Since their first suicide bombing in 1993, the Brigades are reported to have killed more than 500 people in over 350 separate terrorist attacks. Since 2005, the majority of the Brigade’s terrorist activity has comprised small-arms, rocket and mortar fire directed at Israeli military assets and communities in the vicinity of Gaza. These attacks have caused property damage as well as deaths and injuries to military personnel and civilians. Due to the operational losses incurred during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, the Brigades are rebuilding, but still retain the capability to conduct attacks on Israel, primarily through rocket fire and asymmetric tactics.

  • Between 8 July and 26 August 2014, the Brigades launched multiple rocket and mortar attacks into Israel from Gaza.
  • In 2013, the Brigades launched at least five rockets into Israel from Gaza.
  • In June and November 2012, the Brigades launched multiple rocket and mortar attacks into Israel from Gaza.

Directly or indirectly preparing and/or planning terrorist acts

The Brigades’ preparation for further conflict with Israel includes the rebuilding of tunnels linking Israel and Gaza, restocking of ammunition and the training of new members.

Directly or indirectly assisting in the doing of terrorist acts

The Brigades control supply lines to Iran, where it sends fighters for military training. These same supply lines are used by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) — also a proscribed terrorist organisation under Australia’s Criminal Code—for the procurement of resources. The Brigades are also involved in joint training exercises with PIJ.

Advocating the doing of a terrorist attack

The Brigades encourage Palestinian resistance against Israel and the use of all means possible to resist alleged Israeli oppression and aggression. On 5 November 2014, a Hamas member purportedly conducted a vehicle-ramming attack near the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank that injured three Israeli soldiers.

The Brigades also praise rudimentary terrorist attacks against Israel not linked to Hamas, including the 18 November 2014 attack during which two Palestinians armed with a gun and meat cleavers attacked the Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in West Jerusalem. During the heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Territories in October and November 2014, the Brigades reaffirmed intent for continued resistance against Israel.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses the Brigades continue to directly and/or indirectly engage in, prepare, plan, assist, foster or advocate the doing of terrorist acts involving threats to life and serious property damage. This assessment is corroborated by information provided by reliable and credible intelligence sources.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, the Brigades are known to have committed or threatened actions that:

  • cause serious damage to property, or the death of persons or endanger a person’s life;
  • are intended to have those effects;
  • are done with the intention of advancing the Brigades’ political, religious or ideological causes;
  • are done with the intention of coercing or influencing by intimidation the government of a foreign country; and,
  • are done with the intention of intimidating the public and sections of the public.

Other relevant information

Level of participation in peace negotiations

The Brigades are not involved in peace negotiations. Hamas has stated it does not object to a truce between resistance groups in Gaza and Israel. However, any truce would have set conditions and a limited timeframe.

Other designations

The governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand proscribe the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation.

The governments of Canada and the United States proscribe Hamas (including the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades) as a terrorist organisation

The European Union lists Hamas for the purposes of its anti-terrorism financing measures.

Hamas is also included in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Consolidated List maintained under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945, which implements Australia’s obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 in relation to countering the financing of terrorism.