Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) – Fatah

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) emerged during the Second Intifada as a loose network of military groups associated with Fatah, largely initiated by activists from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. Although it was never officially recognised or openly backed by Fatah, many Fatah leaders have maintained an ambiguous relationship with the AMB.

In April 2016, Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces clashed with AMB members after reportedly attempting to arrest a murder suspect in the Old City of Nablus. A few months later, in August, PA security forces arrested Ahmad Izzat Halawa, a local AMB leader, over alleged involvement in the killing of two PA officers during clashes earlier that month. Halawa was reportedly beaten to death while in detention, provoking local protests.

The AMB claims to be a continuity of “The Storm” (al-’Asifah) and “Fatah Hawks” (Suqoor Fatah), armed Fatah groups which were absorbed into the PA’s security forces. However, many of its members were young activists who were part of the Tanzim, a grassroots organisation of Fatah activists that was led by Marwan Barghouti, who Israel claims also led the AMB. The group carried out suicide attacks against Israeli targets between 2001-2007.

Most of the AMB’s leaders have been captured or killed by Israel. In 2010, the remaining activists reached a deal with Israel through the PA to be removed from the wanted list in return for renouncing violence and surrendering their weapons to the PA. Many of these activists were also absorbed into the PA security forces; others kept their weapons and were targeted by the PA. Others went on to form splinter groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Nidal al-Amoudi Division and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza.

During the Second Intifada, the AMB carried out numerous armed operations. The group initially targeted Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza but shifted in 2002 to suicide attacks on civilians inside Israel.