The Al-Qassam Brigades: HAMAS Paramilitary Wing


    1.0 Introduction

    The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB), also shortened to the Al-Qassam Brigades, is the paramilitary wing of Hamas. Currently led by Mohammed Deif the IQB is the largest and most well-equipped militant group operating within Gaza today. Created in 1992, it was named after the 19th/20th-century Syrian Muslim preacher Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Initially concerned with blocking the Oslo Accords, from 1994 to 2000 it claimed responsibility for carrying out several attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel. [Source, source]

    2.0 Motto, Symbols, Patches and History

    2.1 Motto

    The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades do not have an official motto similar to other groups, but they adhere to the Hamas charter. This charter espouses the Hamas mission and its dedication to the armed Palestinian struggle. 

    “Without jihad, there can be no solution to the Palestinian issue; international ‘initiatives’ and conferences are a waste of time.”

    (Article 13, Hamas Charter 1988)


    2.2 Symbols

    Outside of using the patches detailed below, the group uses several types of propaganda which symbolise the group’s mission. This includes posters which show slain Hamas/Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighters and also ones which show captured Israeli soldiers such as Gilad Shalit:

    Shalit on a Hamas poster in Nablus - “Our champion captives. May we have a new Gilad each year”
    Shalit on a Hamas poster in Nablus – “Our champion captives. May we have a new Gilad each year” – [Image source]

    2.3 Patches

    The group’s fighters also don several identifiable patches. One of these patches is the group’s logo, which they converted into a patch.

    IQB emblem
    IQB patch – [Image source]

    On the patch, the green flag translates to “There is no God but Allah” and the fighter is holding a copy of the Quran. The red writing on the side of the badge is the name of the group – “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam (martyr) Brigades”. And, the green writing on the top of the badge translates to “You did not kill them, but God killed them”. Middle Eastern groups, particularly those opposed to Israel and its allies, commonly utilise religious quotations, reflecting a tradition shared across the region. The group’s fighters also commonly have the Palestinian flag on their fighters clothing.

    IQB fighters with Palestinian flag patch and the IQB emblem patch.

    2.3.1 Green headband

    Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighters also famously use the green headband, which is commonly seen on Hamas fighters. The top of the headband says “There is no God but Allah, Muhammed is the messenger of God”. Additionally, headband also has several other identifiable features. First, is the wording on the right-hand side of the headband, which means army but in Arabic. It traditionally means a small group (around 300-1000 people) usually headed by a religious figure. Second, the word after that on the headband is the name of the Syrian ‘martyr’ Muhammad al-Qassam whom the group got their namesake.

    Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
    Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades – [Image source]

    2.4 History of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB)

    The mass arrest of Hamas leadership in 1989 thrust the leadership into an existential crisis, presenting them with a pivotal challenge to confront. Israeli forces arrested anyone with an affiliation to the Islamist movements in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. This led to Musa Mohammed Abu Marzuq, ex-deputy Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, stating that 

    “The blow we sustained was so powerful that none of the movement’s organs was still functioning: none of Gaza’s structures of mass mobilization, military operations, security, organizational development, media and communications or political action. All the institutional machinery has been disabled and all operations have come to a halt. It is as if the movement had simply disappeared from the Gaza Strip.”


    2.4.1 Formation of the IQB in 1992

    Following the previously mentioned mass arrests in 1989, Musa Mohammed Abu Marzuq travelled to Gaza from America (where he was residing) via Egypt. His office formed the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades to separate the military operations from the Hamas political decision-making. [Source]

    2.4.2 First military actions of the IQB in 1992

    In 1992, the IQB conducted military action in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas members, sought by Israeli authorities in the Gaza Strip, communicated with Hamas members in Hebron. The latter provided them with weapons and facilitated the transfer of two group members to Hebron. [Source]

    One of the founders of the IQB, Zahir Jabarin, stated that at the beginning of contact with the Brigades in Gaza: 

    “In August 1992, we began working on making contact with al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza, and we succeeded, thanks be to God […]. Groups from the Gaza Brigades came to our area.”

    Zaher Jabarin
    Zaher Jabarin

    The group managed to secure $100,000 in funding from members abroad which allowed for the group to purchase weapons and equipment from arms dealers. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades released their first statement in January 1992 after the killing of the Jewish rabbi Doron Shoshan. [Source, source]

    2.4.3 Transition of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades 2003 onwards

    Hamas initially set up the IQB during the Oslo Accords to actively assist in efforts to block the agreement. In 2003 and 2004 the Brigades in Gaza resisted multiple incursions by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), into Gaza, including the siege of Jabalya. In 2004, Hamas selected tunnel warfare as their favoured means of operating against the IDF, expanding its use beyond smuggling arms. This meant that the group had transitioned from an unorganised militant organisation into an effective militant group designed with the sole purpose of combating the IDF. [Source, source]

    In 2004, the group developed the first iteration of the Yasin missile – a hand-crafted anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade. They also developed the al-Bana rocket launcher and the Batar rocket-propelled anti-tank grenade in the same year. Also, in the same year, the IQB also designed the Qassam rocket, enabling them to project rockets towards Israel using a low-cost launching platform. [Source, source, source]

    2.4.4 Tensions between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas 2005-2007

    In 2005, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took direct control of the PA (Palestinian Authority) security forces. In response to this, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip formed a separate paramilitary force, which numbered around 3000 fighters and called it the Executive Force. It consisted of al-Qassam Brigades fighters. [Source, source, source]

    The IQB played a central role in the operation that resulted in the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006 and engaged in intense combat during Operation Summer Rains, initiated by the IDF. This marked the first instance in 18 months where the Brigades were directly engaged in clashes against the IDF. In May of the next year, the Brigades acknowledged the loss of 192 fighters during the operation. [Source, source]

    In January 2007, President Mahmoud Abbas outlawed the Hamas-Gaza government Executive Force and ordered it to be disbanded and incorporated into the PA security forces. Hamas resisted this command and announced it would double the size of the force to 12,000 men from the then number of 6000. The IQB and Executive Force took part in the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007. [Source, source]

    3.0 Organisation of the IQB

    3.1 Place within Hamas

    The IQB is the military component of Hamas and now Hamas is attempting to engage with and destroy the state of Israel. It is a highly organised military brigade and views terrorism and military action as the only method by which it can destroy the Israeli state.

    3.2 Key Figures of the IQB

    The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB) have several notable members and these include:

    1. Mohammed Deif – Mohammed Deif is a Palestinian militant leader and the head of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Born in 1965 he joined Hamas in 1987 and took over as commander of the military wing of Hamas in July 2002. He is reported to have survived at least five assassination attempts. [Source]
    2. Marwan Issa – Marwen Issa was a Palestinian militant who was deputy commander of the IQB. Reporting to Mohammed Deif he was reportedly killed during the Israel-Hamas war in 2024 by an Israeli airstrike. [Source]
    3. Yahya Ayyash – Yahya Abd-al-Latif Ayyash was the chief bombmaker for Hamas and the leader of the West Bank battalion of the IQB. He was assassinated by the Israeli intelligence organisation, Shin Bet, on 5 January 1996. [Source]
    4. Adnan Al-Ghoul – Adnan Al-Ghoul, the assistant of Mohammed Deif was eliminated alongside Imad Abbas when an Israeli Air Force AH-64 attacked their car in Gaza on 21 October 2004. [Source]
    5. Imad Abbas – Imad Abbas was an engineer and bomb maker for the IQB and died alongside Adnan Al-Ghoul when their car was attacked by an Israeli AH-64. [Source]
    Adnan Al-Ghoul martyrdom poster
    Adnan Al-Ghoul martyrdom poster

    3.3 Recruitment

    Largely recruited from unemployed civilians in the Gaza Strip, IQB fighters encompass about 50,000 Gazan youths under the age of 18 who are registered for “security” training. Recruitment to the IQB and Hamas is driven by the fact that Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world at 45%. [Source, source, source]

    During the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2023, IQB spokesman Abu Abaida stated in a speech that 85% of their recruits were orphans whose parents had been killed by the IDF. [Source, source]

    3.4 Funding of the IQB 

    The IQB receives its funding from the main Hamas organisation. Hamas’ funding streams are extremely hard to verify and legitimise, although US and Israeli Intelligence reports state that Iran provides upwards of $100 million annually to Hamas and other militant organisations in Palestine. Hamas and the IQB also receive funds raised in the Gulf countries, such as Qatar. [Source]

    3.5 The military structure of the IQB 

    The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have structured themselves into a formal military hierarchy from the squad level up to the brigade level. IDF strategies aimed at the targeted killing of Hamas/IQB leaders are ineffective, as the organization has the capability to promote experienced fighters into positions left vacant by eliminated members. [Source]

    The IQB (Hamas) has several military unit designations such as:

    • Artillery (missiles and rockets)
    • Combat
    • Explosives (IEDs)
    • Explosives (raw material)
    • Armor
    • Suicide 9squads)
    • Special forces
    • Navy
    • Combat Support
    • Intelligence
    • Logistics
    • Information (Propaganda)


    3.5.1 Current IQB military structure

    The current brigades and battalions which have been identified are:

    North Brigade – North Gaza Governorate

    1. Beit Lahia Battalion
    2. Beit Hanoun Battalion
    3. al Khalifa al Rashidun Battalion
    4. Martyr Suhail Ziadeh Battalion
    5. Jabalia al Balad (Abdul Raouf Nabhan) Battalion
    6. Imad Aql (Western) Battalion
    7. Elite Battalion

    Gaza Brigade – Gaza Governorate

    1. Sabra-Tal al Islam Battalion
    2. Daraj wal Tuffah Battalion
    3. Radwan(al Furkan) Battalion
    4. Shujaiya Battalion
    5. Zaytoun Battalion
    6. Shati Battalion

    Central Brigade – Central Governorate

    1. Deir al Balah Battalion
    2. Al Bureij Battalion
    3. Al Maghazi Battalion
    4. Nusairat Battalion

    Khan Younis Brigade – Khan Younis Governorate

    1. Camp (West Khan Younis) Battalion
    2. North Khan Younis Battalion
    3. South Khan Younis Battalion
    4. Eastern (Khan Younis) Battalion
    5. Qarara Battalion
    6. Elite Battalion

    Rafah Brigade – Rafah Governorate

    1. Eastern Battalion
    2. Khalid bin al Walid (Yabna Camp) Battalion
    3. Shaboura Battalion
    4. Possible fourth battalion, name unknown.
    5. Elite Battalion


    4.0 Equipment

    The  Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have increased their lethality by acquiring more advanced weaponry and equipment. This has increased their military capacity significantly and their arsenal now includes multiple forms of anti-tank weaponry and other weapons platforms.

    4.1 Weapons

    4.1.1 Small arms of the IQB

    The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are known to use:

    • AK-103
    • AK-47
    • AK-74
    • AKS-74U
    • M-16
    • PKP Machine Gun
    • FN FAL
    • FN 2000
    • AM-50 Sayyad
    • SVD Sniper Rifle


    IQB fighters

    4.1.2 Heavy weaponry, Rockets and Explosives

    The IQB use an extensive array of heavy weaponry which includes traditionally placed explosives, rocket launchers such as RPGs and also more sophisticated platform-launched rockets:

    • DShK Machine Gun
    • RPG-7
    • RPG-18
    • RPG-29 (tandem-charge anti-vehicle rocket)
    • Shuwaz-type explosive charges (40kg explosives)
    • 9M133 Kornet ATGM
    • Al-Bana anti-tank missile
    • Al-Yassin anti-tank missile
    • Al-Batar
    • Al-Samoud
    • Hawkeye rocket
    • Kafah (Struggle) rocket
    • Nasser variants:
      • Long Nasser 3 (9-10kg explosive yield – 9km max range)
      • Short Nasser 3 (9-10kg explosive yield – 6km max range)
      • Nasser 4 (9-10kg explosive yield – 9km max range)
    • Qassam variants
      • Qassam-1 (max range 10km)
      • Qassam-2 (8kg explosive yield – 10km max range)
    • Grad rocket copy (10kg explosive yield – 10km max range)
    • Quds variant
      • Class A Quds-2 (8kg explosive yield – 6km max range)
      • Class B Quds 2 (8kg explosive yield – 7km max range)
      • Class A Quds-3 (6-7kg explosive yield – 8.5km max range)
      • Class B Quds-3 (8kg explosive yield – 9km max range)
    • Saria-2 (Shrapnel rocket – 18km max range)
    • Yasser Arafat (8km max range)

    [Source, source]

    4.1.3 Anti-air missile launchers

    The IQB/Hamas have several forms of anti-air missile launchers:

    • Strela SA-7 rocket launcher
    • IGLA SA-18 rocket launcher
    • SA-24 Grinch


    4.1.4 Mortars

    The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have several indigenously produced mortar variants. These have been used to provide indirect fire at both Israeli military forces and also being fired at Kibbutzim (agricultural communities).

    • Improvised 80-90mm mortar shell
      • Weight – 3-5kg
      • Weight of explosives – 400g
      • Max range – 1.8km
      • Explosive yield – several hundred grams
    • Improvised 135-140mm mortar shell
      • Weight – 20-25kg
      • Weight of explosives – 3-6kg
      • Max range – 4km
      • Explosive yield – 1-1.5kg
    • Improvised 240-250mm mortar shell
      • Weight – 21kg
      • Weight of explosives – 5-8kg
      • Max range – 1-2km
      • Explosive yield – 1-2kg


    4.2 Vehicles and drones

    The IQB frequently uses pickup trucks in parades to move its fighters from position to position and to move equipment to its depots.

     4.2.1 Drones

    The IQB (Hamas) manufactures its own drones including unmanned underwater vehicles and is also reportedly developing precision GPS-guided drones and missiles. Additionally, they have shown the capability to smuggle commercially available drones for aerial filming. When Mohammad al-Zawahri, a Hamas drone engineer, was assassinated in Tunisia in 2016, Tunis television filmed his laboratory. The broadcast showcased a prototype of an autonomous submersible weapon. [Source]

    Hamas/the IQB launched six Shehab suicide drones during the 2021 Hamas-Israel war, each carrying approximately 5kg of explosives. They intercepted all the drones. An Israeli Air Force F-16 intercepted one with a Python air-to-air missile, while an Iron Dome missile took another down. The other interceptions were classified, but a month later the Israeli Defense Ministry announced the successful test of a laser which was designed to intercept UAVs. [Source]

    A 2016 Hamas obituary notice for engineer Mohammad al-Zawahri
    A 2016 Hamas obituary notice for engineer Mohammad al-Zawahri

    4.2.2 Underwater Explosive Drones

    The IQB also develops its own underwater explosive drones and during the May 2021 Hamas-Israel war, Israeli forces destroyed an underwater drone carrying 50kg of explosives before its launch from Gaza. [Source]

    5.0 Tactical-Operational Information

    Due to the IDFs technological and tactical superiority, the IQB/Hamas has to adapt its tactics on a squad level to combat the IDF. This has involved fighters hiding in tunnels and waiting for Israeli forces to pass after them before engaging with rocket launchers and small arms. The IQB’s responsibility for the October 7 Attacks is evident through their tactics, solidifying their position as one of the major organizations involved. This has resulted in the group being known for committing terrorist attacks against both Israeli civilians and the IDF. [Source]

    Due to the brigade and battalion structure of the IQB, Israeli tactics of eliminating squad leaders have been deemed ineffective, as the Brigades can promptly promote fighters to replace deceased squad leaders. [Source]

    5.1 Operations

    The IQB is known to have committed several major terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF personnel. They have also taken part in several large-scale operations against Israel such as the 7 October 2023 attack.

    5.1.1 Notable IQB operations

    • 19 October 1994 – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive on a bus in Tel Aviv killing 22 people and injuring 56. [Source]
    • 1 June 2001 – A suicide bomber linked to Hamas detonated a suicide explosive device outside a Tel Aviv nightclub killing 16 teenagers and 5 adults, injuring 76. [Source]
    • 1 December 2001 – Two suicide bombers detonated one after another followed by a car bomb in a shopping mall in West Jerusalem killing 11 and injuring 180+. [Source]

    5.1.2 IQB Involvement in the 7 October Attack/Al-Aqsa Flood

    The IQB alongside other Palestinian militant groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), participated in the 7 October attack against Israel. In a cross-border incursion which was named Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, around 3000 militants infiltrated Israel using trucks, motorcycles, bulldozers and paragliders amongst other means crossed into Israel. They attacked multiple Kibbutzim, cities and also Israeli military bases. This attack resulted in the deaths of at least 1400 people and 200 hostages. This then led to Israel declaring war on Hamas and invading Gaza in the ensuing Israel-Hamas war. [Source, source]

    5.2 Core Purpose

    The IQB has stated that its core purpose and its main aim is to:

    “liberate all of Palestine from the Zionist occupation that has been forcefully usurping it since 1948 AD, and to achieve the rights of the Palestinian people that were robbed by the occupation.”

    5.3 Personnel size

    The IQB has a reported membership of 40,000 armed fighters of which half are well-equipped and professionally trained fighters. Approximately 50,000 Gazan youths under the age of 18 are registered for “security” training and have been utilized in combat operations. [Source, source]

    6.0 Conclusion

    The IQB is the highly-trained and well-equipped military component of Hamas. It is also how Hamas seeks to destroy the Israeli State. Subordinate to the Hamas political leadership they have committed several devastating attacks against the State of Israel, IDF and Israeli civilians. With the 2023 Israel-Gaza war still ongoing they can severely impede the IDF in its mission to root out Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

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