Gaza, 21 July-2014, (Indilens Web Team): Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is the arms wing of Hamas which are fighting for freedom struggle in Palestine. It is also known as Qassam Brigades. Before we discuss Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, we have to know who is Izz ad-Din al-Qassam!
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and Hamas freedom struggle in Palestine since 1920
Izz ad-Din Abd al-Qadar ibn Mustafa ibn Yusuf ibn Muhammad al-Qassam who was known as Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, he was a Syrian born Muslim preacher. He was migrated to Palestine around 1920 and founder of Islamic resistance in Palestine against British rule. He started to lead the freedom struggle to fight against British, French, and Zionist organizations in the Levant in the 1920s and 1930s.He was killed during a violent confrontation with British soldiers.
Al-Qassam was born in Jableh, Syria, in the northern Latakia Governorate as the son of Abd al-Qadar, a Sharia court official during Ottoman rule and a local leader of the Qadari Sufi order. His grandfather had been a leading sheikh of the Qadari order and moved to Jableh from Iraq. Al-Qassam also followed the Hanafi school of jurisprudence (fiqh) and studied at the local Istambuli Mosque under the teaching of well-known ‘alim (“scholar”) Sheikh Salim Tayarah.Despite the support for Arab nationalism from some of his fellow alumni at al-Azhar and among Syrian notables, al-Qassam’s loyalties most likely laid with the Ottoman Empire as his relationship with the authorities would indicate.He was well-regarded among much of Jableh’s population where he gained a reputation for piety, simple manners and good humor.
Following Italy’s September 1911 invasion of Libya, al-Qassam began collecting funds in Jableh for the joint Ottoman-Libyan resistance movement and composed a victory anthem.
He later enlisted in the Ottoman army when World War I broke out, where he received military training and was attached as a chaplain to a base near Damascus. Returning to Jableh before the war’s end, al-Qassam used funds from his planned expedition to Libya to organize a local defense force to fight the French occupation.
From Tartus, al-Qassam traveled to Beirut by boat and then to Haifa, then under the British Mandate, where his wife and daughters later joined him. Already in his forties, he concentrated his activities on the lower classes, setting up a night school for casual labourers and preaching to them as imam in the Istiqlal mosque, and he would seek them out on the streets and even in brothels and hashish dens. His greatest following came from the landless ex-tenant farmers drifting in to Haifa from the Upper Galilee where purchases of agricultural land by the Jewish National Fund and Hebrew labour policies excluding Arabs had dispossessed many of their traditional livelihoods’. He was also a prominent member of the Young Men’s Muslim Association. Associated with the Istiqlal party (Independence Party), his activities were financed by several well-off businessmen due to his spreading reputation
He also took advantage of his travels to deliver fiery political and religious sermons in which he encouraged villagers to organise resistance units to attack the British and Jews. He intensified his agitation and obtained a fatwa from Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Taji al-Hasani, the Mufti of Damascus, which ruled that the struggle against the British and the Jews was permissible.
In 1930 al-Qassam’s preaching was instrument in laying the foundations for the formation of the Black Hand (al kaff al-aswad)), an anti-Zionist and anti-British militant organisation, which he used to proclaim jihad and attack Jewish settlers
By 1935 he had recruited several hundred men,-the figures differ, from 200 to 800,- organised in cells of 5 men, and arranged military training for peasants. The cells were equipped with bombs and firearms, which they used to raid Jewish settlements and sabotage British-constructed rail lines. Though striking a responsive chord among the rural poor and urban underclass, his movement deeply perturbed the Muslim urban elite as it threatened their political and patronage connections with the British Mandatory authorities
According to Shai Lachman, between 1921 and 1935 al-Qassam often cooperated with Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Mohammad Amin al-Husayni. They were on good terms, and al-Qassam’s various official appointments required the mufti’s prior consent. He suggests their cooperation increased after the 1929 riots, in which one source claims al-Qassam’s men were active.
Rashed al-Khuza’i al-Fraihat was the only major figure from Transjordan who provided direct support to al-Qassam’s movement, providing direct protection to the rebels and their leadership in the mountains of Ajloun and fortified them with supplies and weapons through the region called “Makadet Kraymeh” near Ajloun as well as direct meetings with the struggling al-Qassam and Hajj Amin al-Husseini from Palestine, al-Khuza’i also afforded the necessary funds for the Palestinian rebels through intermediaries, who were sending his aid to Palestinian revolution directly, in addition to al-Khuza’i’s multiple visits, these visits to Palestine, which were accompanied by the pro-Jordanian al-Khuza’i sent to fight in Palestine, under the direct command of the Palestinian Arab rebellion and brought several Palestinian militants wanted by the British Mandate and settled them in Jordan to live among many Jordanian tribes
The British police manhunt eventually surrounded al-Qassam in a cave near Ya’bad, in the village of Sheikh Zeid. In the long ensuing firefight, al-Qassam and three of his followers were killed, and five captured.The manner of his last stand assumed legendary proportions in Palestinian circles at the time:
Surrounded, he told his men to die as martyrs, and opened fire. His defiance and manner of his death (which stunned the traditional leadership) electrified the Palestinian people. Thousands forced their way past police lines at the funeral in Haifa, and the secular Arab nationalist parties invoked his memory as the symbol of resistance. It was the largest political gathering ever to assemble in mandatory Palestine.
‘played a crucial role in winning the populace away from the elite-brokered politics of compromise with the British, and in showing them the “correct” path of popular armed struggle against the British and the Zionists.’
Al-Qassam is buried at the Muslim cemetery at Balad ash-Sheikh, now Nesher, a suburb of Haifa. The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, bears his name.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are an integral part of Hamas. While they are subordinate to Hamas’s broad political goals and its ideological objectives, they have a significant level of independence in decision making. In 1997, political scientists Ilana Kass and Bard O’Neill described Hamas’s relationship with the Brigades as reminiscent of Sinn Féin’s relationship to the military arm of the Irish Republican Army and quoted a senior Hamas official: “The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders [from Hamas] and do not tell us of their plans in advance.” Carrying the IRA analogy further, Kass & O’Neill stated that the separation of the political and military wings shielded Hamas’ political leaders from responsibility for terrorism while the plausible deniability this provided made Hamas an eligible representative for peace negotiations as had happened with Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams
The fighters’ identities and positions in the group often remain secret until their death; even when they fight against Israeli incursions, all the militants wear a characteristic black hood on which the group’s green headband is attached. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades operate on a model of independent cells and even high-ranking members are often unaware of the activities of other cells. This allows the group to consistently regenerate after member deaths. During the al-Aqsa intifada, the leaders of the group were targeted by numerous airstrikes that killed many members, including Salah Shahade and Adnan al-Ghoul. The current leader of the brigades, Mohammed Deif, remains at large and is said to have survived at least five assassination attempts
The brigades have a substantial weapons inventory of light automatic weapons and grenades, improvised rockets, mortars, bombs, suicide belts and explosives. The group engages in military style training, including training which take place in Gaza itself on a range of weapons designed to inflict significant casualties on military targets.
the number of members is known only to the Brigades leadership.Additionally, the brigades have an estimated 10,000 operatives “of varying degrees of skill and professionalism” who are members of the internal security forces, Hamas and their supporters. These operatives can be expected to reinforce the Brigades in an “emergency situation.
Israeli air force conducted an airstrike killing Ahmed Jaabari, the head of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade. He was killed along with seven others in Gaza marking the beginning of Israel’s “Operation Pillar of Defense.
They are still strong and can carry counter strike against any world army on ground as says and Israeli army officer.