Which are the Palestinian factions and their military wings?
Details and photos
On 7 October 2023, the military wing of the political movement Hamas, the al-Qassam Brigades, in coordination with other Palestinian armed factions based in the Gaza Strip, launched the military operation “Al-Aqsa Flood”, a surprise attack against military posts, bases and kibbutzim on Israeli territory and in Israeli-occupied areas.
This analysis clarifies how within the Palestinian factions there are political and armed movements that are based on communism, socialism, Marxism-Leninism, or simply secular or not linked to any political or religious idea.
This analysis will show all the Palestinian military brigades active militarily on the ground, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, together with the political factions they are linked to, all belonging to the Joint Palestinian Military Operations Room (read here the details about the military joint room).
Armed groups participating in military activities and their connection to political factions
Below we will look at all the brigades militarily active in the ongoing conflict, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the political factions they are linked to:
1) al-Qassam Brigades (military wing of Hamas).
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades were founded in 1991 under the name Palestinian Mujaheddin and as the military wing of Hamas, changing to its current name in 1992. The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas was founded at the beginning of the First Intifada in December 1987 by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. It is an autonomous political faction, with its statute and strategies, which since 2017 has seen the more moderate front prevail within it, and has adopted a new leadership and statute, in which it defines itself as a national resistance movement, distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood and potentially paving the way for their acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the pre-June 1967 borders and thus an indirect recognition of Israel, when it declares: “However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without renouncing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the creation of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, along the lines of June 4, 1967, with the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes from which they were expelled”.
Fig. 1 and 2 - Symbol of Hams and the al-Qassam Brigades
Their armed wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, is the largest and best-equipped armed group and operates exclusively within the Gaza Strip. It also has a military presence in Jenin, Nablus (Musab Shtayyeh Battalion) in the West Bank and a Battalion in Lebanon operating alongside Hezbollah. They are the main perpetrators of attacks and military operations and those who founded the Palestinian Joint Operations Room. They have an estimated 40,000 fighters (including reservists, media, and logistics). They are divided into six units, 24 battalions and 140 companies. The most important in operational terms and numerically is the infantry unit, which constitutes 85% of the Brigades, then there are the special forces, an elite group also called the “Battalion of Guardians”, famous not only for their military capabilities but also for being Koran memorisers and being highly disciplined, the engineering unit, responsible for the production and modification of weapons locally and the management of tunnels, the armoured unit, which is responsible for anti-tank operations, the artillery unit, responsible for launching missiles and mortars, the intelligence unit, responsible for monitoring, security and spies, the information and media unit, responsible for propaganda, the shadow units, responsible for prisoners and hostages, the information technology unit, responsible for computer protection and cybersecurity.
The operative and military room of the group is located inside the underground tunnels.
The leader of the brigades is Mohammed Deif. His deputy is Marwan Issa. The official spokesman of the group, who always appears in the daily military reporting videos and who has acquired great fame over the years is Abu Ubaydah.
Fig. 3 - The spokesman of the al-Qassam Brigades.
Abu Ubaydah’s speeches dominate social networks and messaging apps, with thousands of views and shares of his audios and videos. His face is not known; he always wears a red Palestinian keffiyeh. The war name Abu Ubaidah is derived from the “Conqueror of Jerusalem”, Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah, who lived during the reign of Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab. Some sources claim that Abu Ubaidah was born in the village of Na’aliya, occupied by Israel in 1948, and lived until 2014 in Jabalia, in north-east Gaza.
He began appearing in the media in 2002 as one of the most senior field activists and military officer of the Al-Qassam Brigades. After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Abu Ubaidah was officially appointed spokesman of the al-Qassam Brigades. His notoriety has risen considerably since June 2020 and in the following years for some strongly anti-Israel videos. The first was in June 2020, when Israel decided to annex the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, claiming that this decision by the Tel Aviv government was like “a declaration of war”. Since 7 October, he has appeared every day, except on truce days, to comment on the military successes of the al-Qassam Brigades. The videos in which Abu Ubayda appears are always very similar and end with the phrase 'And it is a jihad of victory or martyrdom', which is the phrase of the martyr Ezzedin al-Qassam. Since 7 October, the al-Qassam Brigades have published extensive propaganda to first show its military operations to attack and later to show its military operations to defend the Gaza Strip.
Fig .4 - A photo of some al-Qassam Brigades fighters.
2) al-Quds Brigades (military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad)
The al-Quds Brigades are the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second largest and most important armed group in the Gaza Strip, established in 1987 under the name Saif al-Islam, later changed to its current name in 2002. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was founded in 1981 through the Muslim Brotherhood network in Palestine but developed as a separate organization, shaped by a growing militarism, always very close to Iran. Islamic Jihad acts more as an elite vanguard rather than a broad community or political movement. Despite their strong Islamist and religious ideological imprint, they also have a strong nationalist stamp. The PIJ focuses heavily on factional unity against Israel and the unity of regional beliefs against Western colonialism.
Fig. 5 and 6 - The symbol of Islamic Jihad and the al-Quds Brigades.
However, the al-Quds Brigades operate not only in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank with Battalions in the areas of Nablus, Jenin (Jenin Battalion, Burqin Groups, Zababdeh Unit), Jaba’ Battalion, Balata Battalion, the Tulkarem Battalion in the Nour Shams camp, the Aqbat Jabr Battalion in Jericho, Tubas, Ramallah, East Jerusalem, Beit Ummar (al-Khalil Battalion) and the Lebanon Battalion fighting alongside Hezbollah. In the West Bank, the al-Quds Brigades have a strong collaboration with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The group’s spokesman is Abu Hamza. Almost nothing is known about him, the only information is that he was already a military spokesman in 2007. It is also known that he is active in Gaza not only as a spokesman but also with sermons in mosques and that he is on the most wanted lists of the Israeli intelligence forces.
Fig. 7 - The spokesman Abu Hamza
The al-Quds brigades have numerous military sections: artillery units, sniper units, infantry, and divers. They have also recently introduced a brigade that deals with operations abroad.
Fig. 8 - A photo of some al-Quds Brigades fighters.
3) al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (military wing of al-Fatah)
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) were founded during the Second Intifada as a network of military groups associated with al-Fatah in the Nablus and Balata area. They are currently operational in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Ideologically, they are linked to Palestinian nationalism, and although they are often identified as the military wing of al-Fatah (socialist and secular) and supported by many of its leaders, the Brigades have never been officially recognized by al-Fatah itself and operate militarily totally independently. Many battalions are also ideologically close to Islamism but collaborate with all military factions with other ideological and political objectives. Local armed units therefore move independently of Palestinian political factions, and often also mostly independently of each other, showing unity of purpose and common alliance with both al-Fatah and Islamic Jihad and Hamas. It can therefore be argued that the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades move under the unofficial umbrella of al-Fatah, also receiving political and economic support from many of its leaders, even if they do not declare it openly, while maintaining a very strong operational and military independence. Several times in recent weeks, they have issued communiqués criticizing the Palestinian Authority's immobility and the need for a general armed mobilization in the West Bank.
Fig. 9 - The symbol of the brigades.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have often criticized Abbas and the Palestinian Authority for not calling for a general military mobilization when necessary, and for always opposing Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The group is strongly aligned with the al-Qassam Brigades and al-Quds Brigades and is fighting alongside them in all military operations conducted in defence of the Gaza Strip. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are structured with 11 units: missile units, navy, support units, infantry units, artillery units, anti-tank units, tunnel units, signal corps units, enemy detection units, local production units, engineering units, and sniper units. The Brigade also has a military training institution: the Al-Nidal Military Academy.
The West Bank, it has several battalions active, operating partially independently, as a kind of armed collective to defend local communities from Israeli raids, present in Nablus, Jenin (Hornet’s Nest Battalion), Balata (Revenge and Liberation Youth Battalion and Young Liberators Battalion), Beit Ummar (Khalil al-Rahman Battalion), Tulkarem (Rapid Response Battalion), Jalazoun, Qalqilya (Leoth al-Majd Battalion), Azzun, Qalandiya, Nours Shams, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tubas, Hebron (Sa'ir Martyrs Battalion and al-Fajr Battalion).
Fig. 10 - A photo of some al-Aqsa MartyrsBrigades fighters.
Abu Muhammad is the military spokesman of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. All that is known about him is that before 2012 he was the spokesman of the Imad al-Amoudy Martyrs Battalion, a battalion of the al-Aqsa Martyrs” Brigades operating in the West Bank. He became the Brigades' main spokesman in May 2012, when he announced the unification under one umbrella of all al-Aqsa battalions operating in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Fig. 11 - Military spokesman Abu Muhammad
4) Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine)
The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades are the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), operating in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Brigade was founded in 2000 when it was called the Popular Resistance Forces and the name was changed to the Abu Ali Mustafa Martyrs Brigades after Israel assassinated the Front’s Secretary General in Ramallah in 2001. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is the second largest faction and the main opposition force to Fatah within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The FPLP is secular and of Marxist-Leninist ideology and has often opposed the policies of the Palestinian Authority. It opposes the two-state solution and instead calls for the creation of a democratic Palestinian state throughout historical Palestine through armed struggle.
Fig. 12 and 13 - The symbol of the Popular Front and the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades
The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades have repeatedly declared themselves supporters of Iran, Syria and the Axis of Resistance.
Militarily, they are not as strong as the al-Qassam and al-Quds Brigades, but they actively participate in rocket, mortar, IED, VBIED, and infantry assault operations. Among the most active battalions are in Khan Yuonis, Gaza City, in Bethlehem (Dheisheh Battalion), Ramallah and al-Bireh.
Fig. 14 - Fighters of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades
Its military spokesman has been Abu Jamal since 2014, who is also the military commander of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades.
Fig. 15 - The military spokesman Abu Jamal
5) National Resistance Brigades Martyr Omar al-Qasim (military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine)
The National Resistance Brigades are the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FDLP), formed in 2000 and operates in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FDLP) was formed in 1969. The FDLP is a member of the PLO, is inspired by Marxist-Leninist ideology and advocates a solution leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian state through both military and political means. The Martyr Omar al-Qasim National Resistance Brigades collaborate militarily with all other brigades, even if they have a different ideology.
Fig. 16 and 17 - The symbol of the Front and the Brigade.
They participated in the 7 October attacks with both infantry operations and rocket and mortar fire. They are operating militarily throughout the Gaza Strip, both in the Khan Younis area and in the northern area of Salah al-Din Street and Gaza City.
Fig. 18 - Some Brigade fighters.
The military leader and spokesman of the Brigades is Abu Khaled. Nothing is known about his identity and personal life. The little information is provided by the brigade's Telegram channel, which identifies him as spokesman and commander, a role he has held since around 2012. He resigned from his post in 2022 due to controversy over the DFLP's participation in the Palestinian Central Council, which has been cooperating with Israel since 2018 by coordinating security in certain areas of the West Bank, withdrawing his resignation a few days later.
Fig. 19 - The military spokesman Abu Khaled
6) Palestinian Mujāhidīn Brigades (military wing of Palestinian Mujāhidīn Movement)
The Mujāhidīn Brigades are the armed wing of the Palestinian Mujāhidīn Movement. The Palestinian Mujāhidīn Movement is a Palestinian political organisation that emerged in the early 1970s to organise resistance to Israeli occupation and achieve Palestinian self-determination through various activities, both political and armed. Initially formed as a faction of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in 2001, the Palestinian Mujāhidīn Brigades became an independent entity in 2006. Their ideological orientation is Islamist and they have often expressed support for Iran and its militias. It is composed of many former fighters of the al-Qassam, al-Quds and al-Aqsa Brigades.
Fig. 20 and 21 - The symbol of the political movement and the brigades.
They operate both in the Gaza Strip and since 2022 also in the West Bank (Jenin area). In recent military operations they have claimed responsibility for launching rockets against Israel and military ground operations in cooperation with the al-Quds Brigades. The Mujāhidīn Brigades' military capabilities are attributable to the use of small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, locally produced mortars and short-range rockets.
Fig. 22 - Brigade fighters in an exercise
Not very hierarchical, the Gaza City Battalion, Khan Younis Battalion, Anti-Tank Battalion, Artillery and Mortar Battalion, Diving Unit, Assault Forces Unit, Nablus Battalion and Jenin Battalion in the West Bank (Martyrs of the Occupied Land Unit) have been identified at the moment.
Fig. 22 - The logos of the Unit of the Martyrs of the Occupied Land
The military spokesman of the brigade is Abu Bilal of whom very little is known, since once he became spokesman, around 2011, he chose to live in secrecy and concealment and his statements are only published in transcribed form. In 2022, he declared that the “Mujahedeen Brigades” only military objective and strategy is "to liberate all of Palestine and purify it of the abomination of the Zionists" In February 2022, the military spokesman for the 'occupied West Bank', Abu Omar, was also appointed, who is in charge of the Nablus and Jenin Battalion's (Unit of the Martyrs of the Occupied Land) statements.
Fig. 22 - The military spokesmen Abu Bilal and Abu Omar.
7) Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades (military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees)
The al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades are the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). The Popular Resistance Committees were formed in 2000 by splinter leaders of al-Fatah in the Gaza Strip, strongly inspired by Islamist ideology and Palestinian nationalism and allied with Hamas AND Islamic Jihad. The PRC supports the creation of a Palestinian state based on the pre-June 1967 borders.
The Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades have often praised Iran and Hezbollah for supporting the brigades economically and militarily.
Fig. 23 and 24 - The symbol of the PRC and the brigades.
The Brigades operate exclusively in the Gaza Strip. They actively participated in the clashes that started on 7 October, with rocket attacks and assaults on Israeli military positions. They are strongly active alongside the other brigades in the military operations to defend the Gaza Strip from the Israeli army invasion, particularly in the areas of Sheikh Radwan, Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis. As of 2022, they appear to have established a battalion in the Jenin area.
Fig. 25 - Fighters of the Nasser Salah Din Brigades
The military spokesman of the brigades is Abu Attayya, since 2018. Almost nothing is known about him, but there are several videos, photos and audio on the brigades' channel and website.
Fig. 26 - Nasser Salah Din Brigades spokesman Abu Attaya
8) Martyr Jihad Jibril Brigades (military wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command)
The Jihad Jibril Martyr Brigades are the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (FPLP-GC), founded in 1969. The FPLP-GC was founded by Ahmad Jibril in 1968 after the split with the FPLP. It adopted a strong pro-Syrian and anti-PLO nationalist ideology and also established branches in Lebanon and Syria. It is allied with Hezbollah. Initially born as a secular and left-wing movement, it turned into an Islamist faction, close to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades were the protagonists of numerous high-profile attacks against Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, including from South Lebanon. They also supported Bashar al-Assad's regime militarily in the early years of the Syrian civil war.
Fig. 27 and 28 - The symbol of the FPLP-GC and the brigade
They participated in the 7 October attacks and are militarily active in the Gaza Strip, actively participating in the military defence against the IDF invasion. They also appear to have a presence in the West Bank, in the Nablus area. The Brigades produce their time locally, including explosives and missiles, with support and training from Hezbollah.
Fig. 29 - Fighters of the brigades.
9) Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini Brigades (military wing al-Fatah)
There is little information about this Brigade. Established in 2012 as another military arm of al-Fatah, it operates exclusively in the Gaza Strip.
Fig. 30 and 31 - The symbol of the al-Fatah and the brigade
The Brigade is named after Abdel-Qadir Al-Husseini, martyred in the Battle of Al-Qastel in April 1948. He was the leader of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), a volunteer force of several thousand Arab irregulars formed to help the Palestinians resist in 1947-1948.
Their ideology is centred on socialism and Palestinian nationalism. They were formed at the urging and behest of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
Their strength numbers between 700 and 1000 fighters in Gaza.
Fig. 32 - Fighters of the brigades.
The brigades operate in Gaza under the approval and indirect management of al-Fatah and receive direct funding.
Commander of the Brigades is Abu Suhaib Zaqout.
They have a close relationship with the al-Quds Brigades and the Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades.
They have artillery capabilities, with a Battalion that deals with rocket and missile launches and mortar shelling. They also have infantry and anti-tank units.
They did not take part in the 7 October attacks but have been operating since the beginning to defend the north of the Gaza Strip from the Israeli army's invasion.
10) Army of al-‘Asifa (al-Fatah)
It is the oldest military wing of al-Fatah. Also known as “the Storm Forces”, they were founded in 1965 when al-Fatah officially declared the start of the armed struggle for Palestinian independence. They are ideologically linked to the political ideas of al-Fatah and pursue nationalism.
Fig. 33 - The symbol of al-’Asifah Forces
Overall, however, al-Asifah Forces have always had limited success in leading an armed struggle against Israel. Over timethe , most of the al-Asifah Forces were incorporated into other units or brigades, until al-Fatah started to finance and support the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Al-Asifah fighters are based in both the West Bank and Gaza
They did not participate in the 7 October attacks but are operating regularly in the defence of the Gaza Strip and operations in the West Bank (particularly Jenin).
They have infantry units, anti-tank units, artillery units and mortars.
Fig. 44 - Al-’Asifah Forces mortars unit.
Armed factions not linked to political movements but active militarily
There are two armed groups, a brigade and a battalion, which have no ties to political movements, parties or factions, mostly composed of fighters between the ages of 18 and 25, both operating in the West Bank, which are conducting military operations against the Israeli security forces and IDF but did not take part in Al-Aqsa Flood. They are the Lion's Den Brigade and the Salfit Battalion.
The Lion’s Den Brigade is a Palestinian armed group based in the old city of Nablus that emerged in August 2022. It currently operates exclusively in the West Bank (also in Balata refugee camp). Its position or political movement to which it is linked is currently unknown. It has close relations with the al-Quds Brigades, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operating in the West Bank.
Fig. 34 - The brigade symbol.
It participated in clashes through assaults on Israeli security forces in the Nablus area. The group could likely become part of the Joint Operations Room. It is composed of fighters between 20 and 25 years old from the West Bank battalions of other Palestinian armed groups, belonging to the political movements of al-Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Fig. 35 - Some fighters of the Brigade in the city of Nablus.
The Salfit Battalion (also known as the Martyr Omar Abu Laila Battalion) was formed in March 2023 in the Salfit area of the West Bank. The battalion stated in a statement that their emergence as a military group was necessary to confront “Zionist criminal actions”.
Fig. 32 - Logo of the Salfit Battalion
They have carried out attacks in Huwwara, Ariel, Qarawat Bani Hassan, Brokhin, Kfar Taffuh, Deir Ballut, and Magdalem with short-range rocket launches, improvised explosive devices, or attacks on military forces with small arms. They are allied with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, with whom they conducted some coordinated military actions.
Fig. 33 - Some fighters of the Salfit Battalion with those of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
Daniele Garofalo is a researcher and analyst on Jihadist terrorism and an expert in monitoring Jihadist media channels.
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