Map with general area of al-Shabaab  presence in Somalia
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade comprises an unknown number of small cells of Fatah-affiliated activists that emerged at the outset of the second Palestinian uprising, or al-Aqsa Intifadah, in September 2000.
Al-Aqsa’s goal is to drive the Israeli military and settlers from the West Bank and establish a Palestinian state loyal to the secular nationalist Fatah ideology. Al-Aqsa employed primarily small-arms attacks against Israeli military personnel and settlers as the uprising spread in 2000, but by 2002 it turned increasingly to suicide bombings against Israeli civilians inside Israel. In January 2002, the group claimed responsibility for the first female suicide bombing inside Israel. After a deadly al-Aqsa bombing in March 2002, the United States designated the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Al-Aqsa members are operationally more active in the Gaza Strip but also plan and conduct attacks inside Israel and the West Bank. The group has killed US citizens, most of them dual US-Israeli citizens, in its attacks. It has members in refugee camps in southern Lebanon and overseas but has not demonstrated the capability or intent to conduct transnational terrorist attacks.

Al-Aqsa cells operate with autonomy.
There are multiple splinter factions, though they remained ideologically loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President ‘Arafat until his death in 2004. Many al-Aqsa cells suspended anti-Israeli attacks as part of the broader unilateral Palestinian cease-fire agreement during 2005. Others did not, however, highlighting the absence of central leadership or control.

After the June 2007 HAMAS takeover of the Gaza Strip, al-Aqsa Martyrs cells in the territory stepped up rocket attacks against Israel. However, the group’s attacks have largely diminished since the end of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in January 2009 because of HAMAS’s efforts to enforce a cease-fire. Media reports claim Iran provides support to various al-Aqsa cells in an effort to sustain anti-Israeli attacks.

In 2007 and 2008, more than 200 West Bank al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade elements participated in an Israeli-Palestinian Authority amnesty program in which they promised to cease anti-Israeli violence and surrender their weapons. By August 2009, however, the program remained fragile and threatened to lose credibility with participants because of Israeli incursions in the West Bank that targeted al-Aqsa members, and Israel’s significant bureaucratic delays in processing amnesty requests.


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