Major Palestinian Militant Groups
Wednesday, August 20, 2003; Page A14
On June 29, the three principal Palestinian militant groups declared a moratorium on killing Israelis anywhere, including soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hamas derives its name from the Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, although the word also means "zeal." It is the largest of three militant Palestinian groups, all of which are on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
Hamas was founded in 1988 in the early days of the first intifada, or uprising. That year it published a charter voicing its opposition to the Palestinian Liberation Organization's acceptance of the state of Israel. The group has articulated different goals at different times, sometimes calling for an end to the Israeli occupation, and at others for destruction of the Jewish state.
Hamas has conducted many of the attacks against Israeli targets, both military and civilian. Among these was the June 2001 suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv nightclub, killing 21 people. The organization also provides social services in Palestinian communities.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. It was founded not long after the 1979 Iranian revolution, from which it drew inspiration. The group is secretive and organizes itself along paramilitary lines. The group believes that peace with Israel is not possible and its leaders have said the Jewish state is an usurpation of lands that they believe rightfully belong to Palestinians. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the November 2002 attack in Hebron that killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and security officials as they walked near a Jewish settlement, as well as numerous suicide bombings.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a violent offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, although Fatah has publicly disavowed al-Aqsa's actions. The group, which arose during the current intifada, takes its name from the principal mosque in Jerusalem.
Among its goals are the eviction of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the establishment of a Palestinian state there. Its original actions were attacks on Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories, but later it carried out suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.
Sources: Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Washington Post staff reports
-- Robert E. Thomason