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 Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades

This Statement of Reasons is based on publicly available information about Hamas’ Izz al-Din al‑Qassam Brigades. To the Australian Government’s knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information where available.

Name of the organisation

Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Known aliases

  • Ezzedeen Al‑Qassam Brigades
  • Izz al‑Din Al‑Qassem Brigades

Legislative 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, 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 listed 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.

Details of the organisation

Overview and objectives

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the Brigades) were officially established in 1991 as the paramilitary wing of Hamas, an ideologically and religiously motivated violent extremist organisation and political party, which fuses Palestinian nationalist and Sunni Islamist objectives. In recent years, Hamas has prioritised its nationalist orientation—probably due to political pragmatism where an inflexible adherence to religious principles is seen as detrimental to the group’s political objectives.

Hamas’ overarching goal is to ‘liberate Palestine’ by establishing an independent Palestinian state—comprising Gaza, the West Bank and Israel—guided by Islamic principles and destroying Israel as a political entity in the process. Islam is Hamas’ ‘frame of reference’, the lens through which its ‘principles, objectives and means’ are determined. Hamas supports the strategy of armed resistance in pursuit of its goals.

The Brigades undertake military activity on behalf of Hamas and have adopted terrorist tactics in their efforts to defeat Israel, including indiscriminate rocket attacks, suicide bombings and kidnappings against Israeli military and civilian targets. Organised terrorist activities associated with Hamas can be reliably attributed to the Brigades.

The Brigades exist within the overall organisational structure of Hamas, subordinate to its political leadership, but structured as a distinct military wing. While decisions of the political leadership probably take precedence, the Brigades operate with a significant degree of independence and are unlikely to seek approval from the political leadership for operational activities. Historically, the Brigades have predominantly operated in Gaza, with limited representation in the West Bank.

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. The Brigades’ website describe its operations as limited to within the borders of historic Palestine. However, the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin, has stated the Brigades act against the Zionist enemy wherever it may be.

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

History

Hamas itself was founded in 1987 during the first intifada. It began as a branch of, and retains an ideological affinity with, the Muslim Brotherhood. Since the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas has been the governing body in Gaza, largely responsible for the administration and provision of government services, including health, education and security to Gaza’s inhabitants.

Leadership

The leader of the Brigades, Mohammed Deif, has held the position since 2002. Deif has survived a number of assassination attempts by Israel and has been described by Israeli media as Israel’s most wanted man. Deif’s deputy, Marwan Issa, serves as the Brigades’ representative in Hamas’ political bureau.

Membership and recruitment

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 30,000 men. The proportion of members assigned to more standard military and security duties, and those involved in planning terrorist attacks is unknown.

Financing

The amount of money allocated to the Brigades by Hamas is difficult to ascertain. While Iran is known to fund the Brigades, Hamas’ funding comes from a range of official and private sources including states, corporations, individuals, and charities. As at April 2021, Hamas has continued to collect taxes within Gaza.

Links to other terrorist organisations

The Brigades have been known to engage and operate with other violent extremist organisations. This includes coordinating operations with listed terrorist organisation Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

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.

The following activities are reliably attributed to the Brigades:

  • From 10-21 May 2021, Palestinian militants, including from the Brigades, launched over 4,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza. The Brigades’ official spokesperson claimed its responsibility for multiple strikes against Israel during this period.
  • On 29 December 2020, Palestinian militant groups, including the Brigades, launched rockets into the Mediterranean Sea off Gaza during joint military drills. According to an official Brigades statement, the exercises aimed to simulate expected threats posed by Israel and to develop the capability of Palestinian resistance fighters for conflict.
  • Throughout August 2020, Palestinian militants in Gaza launched hundreds of incendiary and explosive balloons and at least 16 rockets into Israel before a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was reached on 31 August. The Brigades probably supported some of these attacks.
  • From 1-2 July 2020, the Brigades fired 24 rockets and 20 large-calibre mortars towards the sea from Gaza. An anonymous Hamas official told media that Hamas’ rocket tests aim to improve its military capabilities to counter any Israeli plan to attack the Palestinian people.
  • On 6 May 2019, the Brigades spokesperson posted on social media that the Brigades had ‘succeeded in overcoming the so-called Iron Dome by adopting the tactic of firing dozens of missiles in one single burst’ which caused ‘great losses and destruction to the enemy’. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed Hamas and PIJ had repeatedly fired at a specific location, although few rockets had penetrated the system. At least 690 projectiles were fired in total.
  • On 30 May 2018, the Brigades and PIJ issued an official joint statement claiming their responsibility for ‘targeting occupation settlements and military sites near Gaza Strip with tens of projectiles and mortars’.

The firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, during the escalation of violence in April 2021, can be reasonably attributed to the Bridges as well as PIJ.

On the basis of these examples, the Brigades is assessed as responsible for directly or indirectly engaging in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts.

Other considerations

Links to Australia and threats to Australian interests

There are no known direct links between the Brigades and Australia. The Brigades have not made statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests. However, Australians could be incidentally harmed in attacks.

On 9 August 2001, an Australian-American dual national was incidentally killed in the Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem, attributed to the Brigades.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

The governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand proscribe the Brigades as a terrorist organisation. The governments of Canada and the United States proscribe Hamas (including the Brigades) as a terrorist organisation.

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

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

The Brigades agreed to a ceasefire with Israel following the May 2021 escalation in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict involving the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.

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 June 2021, have not disarmed. Hamas has been involved in other ceasefire agreements, including in August 2020. Recently, Hamas has engaged in reconciliation negotiations with Fatah.

Conclusion

On the basis of the information above, the Australian Government assesses that the Hamas Brigades are directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts.​