Hamas-affiliated Humat al Aqsa promotes its joint military operations with Gaza’s militant groups

Humat al Aqsa (Defenders of al Aqsa)

Humat al Aqsa (HAA), a Gaza-based group that has long been suspected of being founded, directed and funded by senior Hamas political leader Fathi Hamad, recently promoted joint military operations with militant groups in the Gaza Strip on its social networking platforms.

HAA was established in April 2006, one year before Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah.

Hamad’s involvement stemmed from a June 2011 indictment against a member of the group said “the offshoot enjoyed funding directed by no other than Fathi Hamad – Hamas’ interior minister in Gaza – who is known to be closely affiliated with the group’s military wing.”

In recent social media posts, the group touted its joint operations with Hamas’ military wing, al Qassam Brigades. The most notable being an April 2008 operation against Israel’s former security minister Avi Dichter whose convoy was attacked while it traveled near the Gaza border.

On the April 8 anniversary of the attack, HAA published a video releasing the name of one of the attackers of the convoy, Abdullah Hassan al Za’aneen, who was later killed after being targeted by an IDF drone in 2012.

Additionally, HAA revealed the role of Hamas’ late military chief Ahmed Jabari in the 2008 attack.

“We do not forget the great role of the martyr commander, Ahmed al Jabari, who blessed and contributed to the support of the operation, and who praised the performance of the martyr al Za’aneen, who executed the operation with courage,” the statement read.

The attack failed to hurt Dichter but was successful at showcasing the group’s intelligence capability in locating where Dichter would be on the day of the attack.

Other recent military activities conducted by the group include its participation in several short lived conflicts between the IDF and other militant groups over the past two years. One of the group’s fighters, Imad Muhammad Nasir, was killed by the IDF in May 2019 as he attempted to launch rockets in the northern Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, the group published evidence of its participation in a low-tech pressure campaign against the Israeli government that began in early 2018 with the March of Return. Over a two-year period, border units affiliated with militant groups launched explosive-laden balloons toward Israel. HAA admitted to the activity, an act that other militant groups have hinted but have never publicly acknowledged.

In 2019, HAA publicly denounced claims that Hamad was the organization’s leader, saying “the movement does not belong to anyone and enjoys complete independence, whether in the political circles, or even in military action.”

Despite the denial, the creation of an organization like HAA serves Hamas’ military operational needs as it attempts to maintain the facade of a pragmatic organization to the international community. It permits Hamas to carry out attacks against Israel while maintaining deniability that it is not involved in terrorism against Israeli civilians which in turn serves its strategic goals.

Additionally, HAA bears many of the same operational hallmarks as its militant counterparts in the Gaza Strip including an armament of rockets, IED’s, small arms and specialized military units. However, HAA does not share the U.S. State Department’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) despite the fact it behaves identical to Palestinian militant groups on the list.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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