Here Are the Other Anti-Israel Terrorist Groups in Gaza

If Hamas falls, other groups could step up to fill the void.

A Palestinian woman makes her way through debris as people inspect the remains of a house belonging to a member of the Islamist Hamas movement following an Israeli air strike on July 8, 2014 in the Gaza strip town of Khan Yunis. Israeli warplanes killed at least 13 Palestinians in Gaza, with Israel weighing "all options" in a new drive to stamp out Hamas rocket fire as the two sides slid toward another major conflict. 
AFP/Getty Images
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
Aug. 5, 2014, 6:14 a.m.

In its bloody cam­paign to de­mil­it­ar­ize Ga­za, Is­rael may leave Hamas too weak to lead the Palestini­an mil­it­ant fac­tions.

If Hamas falls, wait­ing in the wings is an in­de­term­in­ate num­ber of anti-Is­rael ex­trem­ist groups, some of which were formed by card-car­ry­ing mem­bers of Hamas when they felt the group wasn’t rad­ic­al enough, ac­cord­ing to Mat­thew Levitt, a ter­ror­ism ex­pert at the Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute for Near East Policy.

Some groups op­er­ate sim­il­arly to Hamas, re­ceiv­ing weapons, money, and guid­ance from Ir­an through the ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tion Hezbol­lah. The Palestine Is­lam­ic Ji­had, con­sidered the second-largest ter­ror­ist group in Ga­za after Hamas, is thought to be be­hind many of the “re­cord-set­ting 2,300 plus rock­ets launched from Ga­za to­ward Is­rael in 2012,” ac­cord­ing to the State De­part­ment’s 2013 Coun­try Re­ports on Ter­ror­ism.

It’s pos­sible that the Palestini­an Au­thor­ity or the United Na­tions would step in to re­build Ga­za, and ex­perts — in­clud­ing Levitt — think it’s un­likely that Is­rael would leave the re­gion to chaos. But who­ever is ac­tu­ally in charge, plenty of groups could fill the void as the lead­ing anti-Is­rael voice of the Palestini­ans.

Oth­er than Hamas, the State De­part­ment has six ji­hadist or­gan­iz­a­tions loc­ated in Ga­za re­gistered on its of­fi­cial list of for­eign ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions: Al-Aqsa Mar­tyrs Bri­gade; Army of Is­lam; Palestine Is­lam­ic Ji­had-Shaqaqi Fac­tion; Palestine Lib­er­a­tion Front-Abu Ab­bas Fac­tion; Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Palestine; and Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Palestine-Gen­er­al Com­mand. Here is what the State De­part­ment knows about these ter­ror­ist groups.

Al-Aqsa Mar­tyrs Bri­gade (AAMB)

AAMB’s few hun­dred mem­bers are fun­ded primar­ily by Ir­an through the Le­ban­on-based Hezbol­lah. The group formed at the be­gin­ning of the second in­ti­fada in 2000, but earned a spot on Amer­ica’s ter­ror­ist list in 2002 after it con­duc­ted the first fe­male sui­cide bomb­ing in Is­rael. In Novem­ber 2012, AAMB said it was re­spons­ible for fir­ing “more than 500 rock­ets and mis­siles in­to Is­rael dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Pil­lar of De­fense, the weeklong Is­rael De­fense Force op­er­a­tion in Ga­za,” ac­cord­ing to the State De­part­ment’s re­port. Al­though the group is based primar­ily in Ga­za, AAMB’s goal is to take over the West Bank and cre­ate a Palestini­an state.

Army of Is­lam (AOI)

AOI is a vi­ol­ent ex­trem­ist Salafist group that wants to make friends with al-Qaida. It is re­spons­ible for ter­ror­ist at­tacks on cit­izens of Is­rael, Egypt, New Zea­l­and, the United King­dom, and the U.S. The State De­part­ment es­tim­ates its mem­ber­ship to be “in the low hun­dreds.” AOI was foun­ded in 2005 but didn’t get re­cog­nized by the U.S. as a ter­ror­ist group un­til 2011, after Egypt al­leged it was re­spons­ible for a church bomb­ing that killed 25 and wounded 100.

Palestine Is­lam­ic Ji­had-Shaqaqi Fac­tion (PIJ)

PIJ is one of the old­est mil­it­ant groups, formed in the 1970s with the goal of wip­ing out Is­rael and cre­at­ing an Is­lam­ic state. Ir­an funds and trains PIJ’s mil­it­ants, es­tim­ated by the State De­part­ment to be some­where un­der 1,000 in num­ber. PIJ launches thou­sands of its own rock­ets at Is­rael but has also worked with Hamas.

Palestine Lib­er­a­tion Front”“Abu Ab­bas Fac­tion (PLF)

Not much is known about the PLF’s mem­ber­ship or its primary sup­port­ers, but it has been in­volved with the Palestini­ans since the 1990s, which is also when it was named to the U.S. list of for­eign ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions. In 2006 it tried un­suc­cess­fully to win a seat in the Palestini­an par­lia­ment.The group has claimed re­spons­ib­il­ity for a hand­ful of at­tacks on Is­rael.

Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Palestine (PFLP)

Syr­ia and Hezbal­lah help out the PFLP, which is sup­port­ive of a two-state solu­tion but is also re­spons­ible for sui­cide bomb­ings, rock­et at­tacks, and at­temp­ted kid­nap­pings of Is­raeli ci­vil­ians and mil­it­ary dur­ing and after the second in­ti­fada. Ac­cord­ing to the State De­part­ment, its num­bers are un­known. The PFLP has been around since 1967.

Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Palestine-Gen­er­al Com­mand (PFLP-GC)

Syr­ia helps train the sev­er­al hun­dred mem­bers of the PFLP-GC, and Ir­an bank­rolls them, ac­cord­ing to the State De­part­ment, which at­trib­utes the group’s split in 1968 from the PFLP to its de­sire “to fo­cus more on res­ist­ance and less on polit­ics.” In the 1970s and 1980s, it at­tacked Is­rael “us­ing un­usu­al means, such as hot-air bal­loons and mo­tor­ized hang gliders.” Today, the PFLP-GC car­ries out rock­et and armed at­tacks on Is­raeli cit­izens, and smuggles weapons to sup­port oth­er anti-Is­rael ter­ror­ist groups.

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