Gaza: what Islamist groups are threatening Israel?

(In collaboration with Termometro Politico)


On July 8th, in response to the ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces(IDF) started the military operation Protective Edgewith the aim of striking means, infrastructure and operations of terrorist organizations responsible of the attacks perpetrated against the Israeli State.On Thursday evening, tanks and soldiers entered the Gaza Strip, beginning phase two of the operation.

The objective of Tel Aviv is hitting the military wing of the two main terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, that is theIzz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and Al-Quds Brigades, respectively Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine.

Hamas, born at the end of 1987, almost simultaneously with the first Palestinian intifada, has a vision-nationalist State linked to the exercise of government authority: it is the achievement of the territories of historic Palestine through the creation of an Islamic State in Palestine instead of Israel.

The structure of Hamas also includes, as well as the political wing, its own militarywing: they are the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which have been beginning an anti-Israeli campaign of terrorist attacks both in Palestinian and in Israeli territories since the Nineties.These attacks consisted in a widespread use of suicide bombings against civilians, achieving, in recent times, the use of Improvised Explosive Device(IED), as well as a massive use of rockets and mortar rounds or more generally indirect fire weapons and also developing an ambitious program of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(UAV) type.

The structure of this group is typically conventional, showing all the influence of Hezbollah and Iran: command nucleus, cells artillery (if they are rockets, these cells are to be considered as strategic departments), snipers and anti-tank units.In particular, the fundamental pin is a structure of maneuver battalions consisting of 4 companies, each of them divided into 4 platoons.

Turning point in the political-military evolution of Hamas was the victoryin the legislative electionsin the Palestinian territories in early 2006, which marked the end of the Fatah leadership within the Palestinian nationalist movement and permitted the exercise of power by the organization in the Gaza Strip.

As well as Hamas, even the IslamicJihad Movement in Palestine, born during the Seventies, considers the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic State in the territory of historic Palestine. As mentioned, it consists of a military wing, that is the Al-Quds Brigades, following the structure of Hezbollah but, in comparison to the Izzad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the workforces are more limited in this case.There are battalions of 500-600 men who more closely resemble a classical avant-garde structure of terrorist-guerrilla groups.

In recent years the group has become more and more operational value, always enriching its arsenal qualitatively and quantitatively, which seems to bemainly financed by Iran.

Regarding the missile arsenals put in by these groups, they have become the primary offensive means on the Palestinian side since the government of Israel erected, in 2004, a wallthat can effectively limit the entry of suicide terrorists in own territory.It would seem that Hamas has come to possess dozens of M-302 rockets, warhead of 144 kg and range of 160 km approximately, and thousands of other rockets with smaller payload and range but of high “terrorist” value, given the proximity of their opponent.The other main group also hosts a large quantity of mainly short-range rockets but also medium, up to 80 km with a payload of 60 kg.In both cases, the production can be attributed to Iranian origin or within the Gaza Strip.

Finally, the presence of small terrorist groups, belonging mostly to the Salafisphere, has recently been registeredin the same Strip.In some cases, these groups deploy rockets within its arsenal, coming to count several hundred globally, especially in the medium-low range, but able to represent an element of confusion within the delicate Israeli-Palestinian political scenario.



Master of Arts in International Politics and Diplomacy (University of Padua)

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