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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

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Minister for Home Affairs must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

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

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first proscribed Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 9 November 2003. It was re-listed on 5 June 2005, 7 October 2005, 8 September 2007, 8 September 2009, 18 August 2012, 11 August 2015 and 4 August 2018.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Objectives

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (hereafter referred to as the Brigades) were established to provide Hamas with a paramilitary capability. The Brigades undertake military activity on behalf of Hamas, and seek to establish a Palestinian Islamist state comprising Gaza, the West Bank and Israel—destroying Israel as a political entity in the process. The Brigades have adopted terrorist tactics in their efforts to defeat Israel, including indiscriminate rocket attacks, suicide bombings and kidnappings. Accordingly, organised terrorist activities associated with Hamas can be reliably attributed to the Brigades, and lone-actor terrorist activity is regularly praised by the Brigades.

Directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

Since 2005, the majority of the Brigades' activity has consisted of small-arms, rocket and mortar fire at Israel and communities in the vicinity of Gaza. These attacks have caused property damage, as well as deaths and injuries to both military personnel and civilians.

  • In February 2018, the Brigades conducted almost daily missile tests. Israel reportedly believed these missile drills were conducted in an effort to increase the efficiency, and improve the range of Brigades' missile capability.
  • On 18 April 2016, an individual detonated an improvised explosive device on a bus in Jerusalem injuring 20 people. The attacker was the only fatality. The Brigades claimed the attacker as a member, and praised the attack.

The Brigades' preparations for further attacks against Israel include: rebuilding and maintaining its cross‑border tunnel network used to attack Israel; accumulating ammunition; training new members; and ongoing financial support to martyred members' families.

  • In November 2017, Israeli forces destroyed an ‘attack tunnel' which crossed into Israeli territory. At least 12 people were killed in the incident, including two Brigades members.
  • Between January and July 2016, at least 17 people, mostly Brigades members, were killed in a number of  tunnel collapses, the cause of which remain unknown.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

While the Brigades rarely claim attacks, they will encourage, praise, and celebrate Palestinian resistance against Israel, including the use of terrorist tactics. The Brigades regularly use channels, such as their website to issue official communiques on their militant activities, publish anti-Israeli propaganda, disseminate claims of Israeli human rights violations, and commemorate martyred Brigade members with statements reaffirming their commitment to resisting Israel.

  • On 9 January 2018, an Israeli Rabbi was shot and killed near Nablus in a drive-by shooting. The Brigades issued a statement praising the event and the martyrdom of the attacker and stated that what Israel ‘feared is coming'. The Brigades described the attacker's actions as a model to be emulated in the fight against Israel.

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.

The Brigades were officially established circa 1991 to provide Hamas with a paramilitary capability specialising in terrorist attacks, assassinations and kidnappings inside Israel. The Brigades are structured as a distinct military wing separate from Hamas's others structures, which include its Political Bureau and security agencies. Accordingly, the Brigades operate with a significant degree of independence in their decision making. Historically, the Brigades have predominantly operated in Gaza, with limited representation in the West Bank.

The Brigades maintain their own website, including an English-language version, which publicises their aims and activities. It is used to commemorate events, condemn perceived Israeli crimes, praise anti-Israel protest and announce the death of Brigade members killed in Israeli counter-terrorism actions.

The Brigades have not demonstrated intent to conduct attacks outside of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, or to target interests of countries other than Israel. However, the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, has stated the Brigades act against the Zionist enemy wherever it may be.

Leadership

The leader of the Brigades, Mohammed Deif, has held the position since 2002. Deif has been described by Israeli media as Israel's most wanted man.

Membership

The size of the Brigades is difficult to determine. The Brigades restrict knowledge of membership numbers to their leadership; however, estimates range from several thousand to 27 000 members, reservists and trainees. The proportion of members assigned to more standard military and security duties, and those involved in planning terrorist attacks is unknown.

Recruitment and funding

The amount of money allocated to the Brigades by Hamas is difficult to ascertain. While Iran is known to fund the Brigades, Hamas's funding comes from a range of official and private sources including states, corporations, individuals, and charities. As at February 2018, Hamas continued to collect taxes within Gaza.

Links to other terrorist organisations

The Brigades have been known to engage and operate with other terrorist organisations, including Hizballah's External Security Organisation and Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Force.

Links to Australia

There are no known direct links between the Brigades and Australia.

Threats to Australian interests

No Australians have been killed in attacks by the Brigades, nor has the organisation specifically mentioned Australians or Australian interests as a target.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

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.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

The Brigades are not involved in peace negotiations.

In 2017, Hamas engaged in reconciliation negotiations with its rivals, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. This included a 12 October 2017 agreement to restore Palestinian Authority control to the Gaza strip; however, it did not address the future of the Brigades, which, as of February 2018, refused to disarm.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses that Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades continue to be directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts or advocates the doing of terrorist acts.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, the Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades is known to have committed or threatened actions that:

  1. cause, or could cause, death, serious harm to persons, serious damage to property, endangered life (other than the life of the person taking the action), or create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public;
  2. are intended to have those effects;
  3. are done with the intention of advancing the Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades' political, religious or ideological causes;
  4. are done with the intention of intimidating the government of one or more foreign countries; and
  5. are done with the intention of intimidating the public or sections of the public.