(Communicated by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees have cooperated closely since the beginning of the ongoing violent Palestinian-Israeli confrontation. However, because of the so-called “lull in the fighting” and Hamas’ terrorism-restraining policy, Hamas has augmented the aid it gives to the PRC. The PRC has become a kind of Hamas sub-contractor, carrying out attention-getting attacks against Israel. Handling the PRC behind the scenes enables Hamas to encourage terrorist attacks against Israel while outwardly maintaining its policy of restraint and coping with the political exigencies resulting from the composition of its government. Hamas provides the PRC with extensive operational support, including monthly funding, and providing arms, training and operational instructions.
In September 2000, the PRC was established as an alternative to Fatah. The new organization included former Fatah operatives and ex-members of the Palestinian security services. They were joined by former Hamas, PIJ and Popular Front terrorists.
The organization then began carrying out attacks against Israel, which have increased in number because of the large amounts of support received from external sources. The organization avails itself of the PA’s preventive security forces, Iranian elements operating in Lebanon and the Hizbullah, for which it acts as a contractor, carrying out attacks in return for money.
The organization has carried out a series of deadly attacks against civilian targets and against the IDF forces in the Gaza Strip. Prominent among them were the following:
- On October 8, 2000, a shooting attack was carried out against a bus carrying Airport Authority workers in the area of the Rafah crossing; eight were wounded.
- On November 8, 2000, an Israeli vehicle traveling along the Kerem Shalom-Rafah road was shot at; one woman was killed while driving to her job at the Rafah border crossing.
- On November 20, 2000, near the settlement of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip, a roadside bomb blew up a bus full of children on their way to school; two adults accompanying the children were killed and nine others, including 5 children, were wounded.
- In July 2003, anti-tank missiles were fired at Kfar Darom; four were wounded.
- On May 2, 2004, five members of the Hatuel family were murdered when two terrorists shot at their car on the Kissufim road at close range: the mother, Tali (eight months pregnant), and four of her daughters, including a two-year old infant.
- On July 24, 2005, a drive-by shooting on the Kissufim road killed
- Anti-tank charges killed three Israeli soldiers on February 14,
2002; three soldiers on March 14, 2002 and one soldier (four others wounded) on September 5, 2002.
- On September 26, 2004, an IDF post at the settlement of Morag in the Gaza Strip was penetrated; three soldiers were killed and one wounded.
The Popular Resistance Committees, which in the past focused on attacks against Israelis in the Gaza Strip, had to retain its organizational relevance after the disengagement in August 2005. To that end, it stepped up its rocket fire at Israeli settlements in the western Negev, although it launched fewer than the leading organizations.
In addition to launching rockets, the PRC tried to carry out mass-murder attacks against Israeli targets at the border crossings and around the Gaza Strip. These attempts were carried out despite the fact that the most effected by these attacks are the Gaza Strip residents themselves, as they are totally reliant on the crossings for food supplies, medical supplies, raw materials, merchandise and passage in and out of the strip for work and humanitarian reasons. IDF forces prevented these attempts, as well as other attempts made by the organization to infiltrate Israel through the Israeli-Egyptian border.
Since the disengagement the organization has also been involved in directing terrorist groups and operations in Judea and Samaria, including the transmission of information, the establishment of infrastructures for firing rockets and mortars, and the infiltration of terrorist experts and potential suicide bombers into the West Bank. In 2006, the organization continued its efforts to develop a terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria directed from the Gaza Strip. Their success was limited. Most conspicuous was its involvement in the June 25 abduction and murder of Eliahu Pinhas Oshri, which was carried out by a Fatah/Tanzim cell operating under the direction of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip.
During the past year Hamas increased its aid and support of the PRC. The close relations between the two organizations were revealed in an interview given by Abu Yusuf al-Qoqa, one of the organization’s senior operatives. He admitted that the organization “coordinated fully” with Hamas, received its support in practical matters, supported it politically and identified with its Islamic ideology.
On April 1, 2006 Siyad Siyam, the interior minister of the Hamas government, announced the appointment of Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), as general supervisor of the interior ministry and police. The appointment set a precedent by being the first time the new Hamas government appointed to a senior position a self-declared terrorist leader with a long record of attacks against Israel and with Israeli (and possibly American) blood on his hands. In addition, after his appointment Samhadana gave interviews to the media and made it clear that he had no intention of giving up his position as head of the PRC and that he would continue carrying out attacks against Israel.
In June 2006 the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist organization was dealt a severe blow by the death of two of its leaders: Abu Yusuf al-Qoqa, in March, and Jamal Abu Samhadana. Anther blow was a factional split-off under Mumtaz Durmush. The faction called itself the Army of Islam and adopted a modus operandi similar to that of the global jihad.
The PRC in 2007
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) has two main (and a number of small) factions and a total of several hundred operatives. It deployed throughout the Gaza Strip and carried out shootings, plants IEDs near the border fence, launched rockets and mortar shells, carried out showcase attacks at the border crossings and attempted to infiltrate into Israeli territory.
Their rocket launching policy was not influenced or restrained by political considerations of the type influencing Hamas, but by local operational factors. The organization integrated itself into the trend of steady rocket fire into Israel. Its operatives carried out routine attacks, usually in collaboration with the PIJ and various Fatah networks.