Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades consists of localized cells of Palestinian militants loyal to the secular-nationalist Fatah movement. Al-Aqsa emerged at the outset of the 2000 Palestinian al-Aqsa Intifadah, splitting from the Fatah party to attack Israeli military targets and settlers with the aim of driving Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and establishing a Palestinian state. Al-Aqsa has no central leadership; the cells operate with autonomy, although they remained ideologically loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah party head Yassir Arafat until his death in 2004.
Al-Aqsa initially focused on small arms attacks against Israeli military personnel and settlers in the West Bank. In 2002, the group began to conduct suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. After a March 2002 bombing, the U.S. State Department designated Al-Aqsa a foreign terrorist organization. Al-Aqsa suspended most anti-Israel attacks as part of the broader unilateral Palestinian ceasefire agreement during 2004 but resumed them following HAMAS's electoral victory in January 2006. Al-Aqsa members have continued anti-Israeli as well as intra-Palestinian violence and contribute to the overall chaotic security environment inside the Palestinian territories. Al-Aqsa has not targeted U.S. interests as a policy, although its anti-Israeli attacks have killed some dual U.S.-Israel citizens.
Al-Aqsa began by carrying out attacks against Israeli military personnel and settlers in the West Bank, but changed tactics in January 2002 with the killing of the group's West Bank leader, Raed al-Karmi to include targeting all Israeli civilians. In January 2002, the group claimed responsibility for the first suicide bombing carried out by a female.
Location/Area of Operation
Al-Aqsa operates mainly in the West Bank but has conducted attacks inside Israel and the Gaza Strip. The group has members in refugee camps in southern Lebanon and overseas, although it has not demonstrated transnational capability.
Iran has exploited Al-Aqsa's lack of leadership and funds by providing aid and exerting influence over the organization.
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