The Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade:
Terror track-record endorsed by the ‘moderates’

Published: 10 July 2010
Briefing Number 261

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Summary:  The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is the so-called ‘armed wing’ of the Palestinian Fatah movement.  This Briefing describes the track record of violence and terrorism of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade against Israeli civilians, stretching back to 2002.  At its 2009 political congress Fatah, which is the so-called  ‘moderate’ faction of the Palestinians, freshly endorsed the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.  Such endorsement contradicts Fatah’s ‘moderate’ label.

The Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade: acts of violence in 2010

The Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is the so-called ‘armed wing’ of Palestinian faction Fatah. 

In December 2009 the Al Aqsa Martyrs claimed responsibility for the shooting dead of Israeli rabbi Avshalom Chai, a father of seven children, outside Nablus. 

On 14 June 2010 it claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting of Israeli policeman Yehoshua Sofer, outside Hebron.  Three Israeli policemen were wounded in that attack.     

These recent attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. Most attacks by the Al Aqsa Martyrs have taken place against civilians inside Israel. The purpose of this Briefing is to chronicle that record of violence and terrorism.

The Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs have never expressed remorse over any of the killings listed below. 

Fatah confirms the status of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

In August 2009, in Bethlehem, the Palestinian Fatah movement held its first full political convention for 20 years.  Among its decisions was to confirm the status of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as Fatah’s ‘armed wing’. 

By taking this step, Fatah condoned the track record of violence chronicled below, and gave the group further credibility and support within Palestinian society. 

Some commentators argue that this confirmation is a way of curbing the excesses of the Al Aqsa Martyrs. 

But others say it shows how little Fatah has internalised the idea of future peace with Israel. Whatever polite speeches the Palestinian moderates make in press briefings in Washington DC or European capitals, Fatah is more wedded to so-called ‘resistance’ and violence than to building meaningful coexistence.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is leader of Fatah.  The near-universal assumption among commentators - that he desires peace with Israel - is contradicted by his movement’s endorsement of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.    

Suicide and other attacks by the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs on Israeli civilians

Since 2002 the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have carried out and claimed responsibility for many of the most devastating attacks on Israeli civilians. 

They have murdered Israeli men and women, children and the elderly, indiscriminately and in large numbers. The suicide bombing attacks have included the following:

  • Synagogue entrance, Beit Yisrael, Jerusalem.  11 killed, 50 injured.  2 March 2002 (eight Israeli members of the Nehmad family were murdered in this bomb attack: see Beyond Images Briefing 12)
  • Supermarket, Jerusalem. 2 killed, 28 injured.  29 March 2002
  • Café, Tel-Aviv.  1 killed, 30 injured.  4 April 2002
  • Ice cream parlour, Petah Tikva.  2 killed, 37 injured. 27 May 2002
  • Bus stop, North Jerusalem. 7 killed, 50 injured.  19 June 2002
  • Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. 23 killed, 120 injured, in double suicide bombing attack.  5 January 2003
  • Shopping centre, Afula. 3 killed, 70 injured.  19 May 2003 (an attack claimed jointly by the Al Aqsa Martyrs and Islamic Jihad)
  • Number 19 bus, Central Jerusalem.  11 killed, 50 injured.  29 January 2004
  • Number 14A bus, Central Jerusalem.  8 killed, 60 injured.  22 February 2004 (11 of the dead and injured were Israeli schoolchildren)
  • Ashdod port facilities, southern Israel. 10 killed, 16 injured.  10 March 2004 (an attack claimed jointly by the Al Aqsa Martyrs and Hamas)
  • Hitchhiking post, Jerusalem. 2 killed, 17 wounded.  22 September 2004.
  • Karni civilian crossing point from Gaza into Israel.  6 killed, 5 wounded during infiltration. 13 January 2005.  (Responsibility was claimed jointly by the Al Aqsa Martyrs, and by Hamas).
  • Bakery, Eilat, southern Israel.  3 killed in suicide bombing.  (The Al Aqsa Martyrs and Islamic Jihad each claimed responsibility for the attack).

The Kibbutz Metzer massacre 2002 – claimed by the Al Aqsa Martyrs

In October 2002 a gunman infiltrated Kibbutz Metzer in Northern Israel at night.  He entered the home of the Ohayon family.  He shot two children dead at point blank range, together with their mother, while she was reading them a bedtime story in their bedroom.  The children were aged 5 and 4.  The gunman then shot dead two more Israeli residents of the kibbutz, before escaping. 

The Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the massacre.
For more on the Kibbutz Metzer killings: see Beyond Images Briefing 22

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as the “jewel in the crown” of Fatah

Media commentator and analyst Tom Gross reports on Palestinian political affairs, and frequently quotes statements made in Palestinian and Arab language media (see

On 12 August 2009, Gross reported the following statement which was made when Fatah confirmed the status of the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs.

Fatah spokesman Fahmi al-Zair’ir said:

“It is not possibly to rule out or marginalise the military option.   The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are the jewel in Fatah’s crown.  We must strengthen their status…. and maintain them in a state of alert.” 

A month earlier, on 7 July 2009, Kifah Radaydeh, who is also a Fatah spokeswoman, said (as reported and translated by Palestinian Media Watch –

“It has been said that we are negotiating for peace, but our goal has never been peace.  Peace is a means: the goal is Palestine….”

Related Beyond Images Briefings:

See All Beyond Images Briefings / Terrorism Against Israel

Beyond Images Briefing 12 – Israeli families devastated

Beyond Images Briefing 22 – Kibbutz Metzer: the day when idealism and horror collided

Beyond Images Briefing 78 – Palestinian suicide bombings 1994 – 2004: don’t let the world forget