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Vital Information:

In 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism, Matt, Vital Information on September 9, 2010 by Two Barbers

Currently Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (adjunct to the Country Reports on Terrorism)

1st Installment

al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

-added to the State Department’s list of FTO on 3/27/02

Area of Operation: Palestine/Israel

Headquarters: West Bank, particularly in the cities…

  1. Nablus (where they call themselves “The Knights of the Night”  [clearly not considering how silly it would sound in English])
  2. Ramallah
  3. Jenin
  4. Jericho

 …was formed during the time between 2000 and 2002 in the beginning of the Second Intifada, a.k.a. the al-Aqsa Mosque Intifada, or less formally denoted the Second Palestinian Uprising against Israeli occupation (uprising is the literal meaning of the word intifada). It’s a loose coalition of militias from within the fold of Yassir Arafat’s Fatah party, which is currently the body in control of government in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas, and it seems to not be fully defined or easy to nail down just yet, but it has been one of the most active militant brands in Palestine since quickly after its inception.

Most summaries date its origin to 2000 which is when the Intifada that is its namesake began. September 28th. It’s reputed to have begun with a political act by Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem, touring the Haram al-Sharif complex, in which the Dome of the Rock and none-other than al-Aqsa mosque, the 3rd holiest site in Islam (because apparently sanctity, despite being absolute, can be rated) are located, just a stone’s throw from the Western Wall, the location of the first two Hebrew Temples destroyed by the Babylonians and the Romans, respectively, and the location where the third and final temple is meant to be built (which is a problem). But it’s really more complicated, having to do with a lot of pent-up social unrest and a line of uncivil political and private disputation, including the 2000 Camp David Summit, from the previous seven years since the peace agreement made in Oslo in 1993. However, riots ensued on the 29th. The earliest report I found that mentions in unequivocal terms “al-Aqsa Maryrs Brigade” is a report on the assassination of one of its operatives named Osama Jawabri in a phone booth in the city of Nablus, in which two children were “slightly wounded by flying debris”, published in the Free Lance-Star on June 25, 2001.

According to The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and Military History, “Initially, the group’s strategy was to target Israeli military outposts and Jewish settlers within the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” However, they expanded to Israel pretty quickly, with a suicide attack in Jerusalem that “killed an elderly man and wounded about 40 other people”. The 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism cites it as the “first female suicide bombing inside Israel.”

An article by Christine Toomey, Discussing the Politics of Murder published on June 11, 2006, stated that 20 out of 135 attacks since September 2000 written in Israeli government records, were claimed by the Brigade. Since then, about 5 more have been attributed to them, including in 2008, when they launched Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Qassam rockets are homemade weapons that are, according to The Encyclopedia, “crudely made and wildly inaccurate and have a relatively short range”, which makes them effective at hitting random innocent civilians.

The connections between the Brigade and Fatah are spotty. It is often referred to as “Fatah’s military wing”. Many of its member’s, such as Jihad Jaara, Commander in Bethlehem, and Zakaria Zubeidi, (ex?) Commander in Jenin (see also Christine Toomey article above), have also served in the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. Israel has attributed the origin of the Brigade to the Tanzim run by Fatah leader Marwan Barghuti. Tanzim is a generic the Hebrew word for a military organization that the Israel uses to denote Palestine’s armed forces.

The Brigade’s agenda is nationalist and not Islamic. Its goal is to secure an independent Palestinian state that includes Jerusalem (back to the problem).

It was sort of punked by Sasha Baron Cohen in Brüno, through an ex-member, Ayman Abu Aita, who is a Christian.

Its affiliate militias operate independently of central leadership, and at times have battled with Hamas.

An article from The Palestinian Monitor gives an account of its cell in Nablus’ Old City section (Knights of the Night).

According to the 2009 Country Reports:

West Bank Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade members participated in 2007 and 2008 in an Israeli-Palestinian Authority amnesty program in which the fugitives promised to cease anti-Israeli violence and surrender their weapons. The program remained fragile and threatened to lose credibility with participants due to slow bureaucratic processes and escalating

Israeli incursions in the West Bank targeting al-Aqsa members – the most recent of these occurred in December 2009 in reaction to a fatal shooting of an Israeli settler in the West Bank.

Most recently, they claimed responsibility for a shooting that killed four Tuesdays on August 31st, that got some buzz as the first among many expected disruptions to the present peace talks between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Also according to the Reports, there are (estimated) about 100 members.

Its flags are yellow with Arabic writing across the middle (as seen in the video report by this British guy).

-Matt

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