Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
Definition/Scope: 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. The Brigades goal or aim is to drive the Israeli military and settlers from the West Bank and establish a Palestinian state that is loyal to the secular nationalist Fatah ideology. They have 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 where the group claimed responsibility for the first female suicide bombing inside Israel. After a bombing in March 2002, the United States designated the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Al-Aqsa has no central leadership; the cells operate with autonomy, although they remained ideologically loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah party head Yassir Arafat until his death in November 2004. In 2007, the majority of al-Aqsa attacks were rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel from HAMAS-ruled Gaza. Israel agreed to extend a conditional pardon to 178 West Bank al-Aqsa members, but did not expand the program to the rest of the organization. Al-Aqsa has not targeted U.S. interests as a policy, although its anti-Israeli attacks have killed some dual U.S.-Israeli citizens.