JAFFA, Israel – No less than 50 armed militias are currently operating in the Gaza Strip, possessing around one million weapons of various kinds, an Egyptian newspaper claimed on Thursday.
According to an investigative report in the Seventh Day daily newspaper, the leading militia is Hamas’ military wing, the Azz a-Din al-Qassam brigades, which is 18,000-24,000 troops strong.
The militia is divided into numerous units: infantry, an armored unit trained to fight Israeli tanks, an engineering unit in charge of the network of tunnels and air defense systems that rely on Soviet-made machine guns and missiles, an artillery unit in charge of manufacturing rockets, and two special missions units trained to infiltrate Israel and abduct prisoners.
The paper said that Hamas’s Azz a-Din al-Qassam sets the tone for some of the other armed groups.
In addition, Gaza is home to Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades, with 8,000-14,000 members, and the military wings of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, boasting some 3,000 men each. Militants belonging to Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades and affiliated groups number in the thousands.
Some 10,000 Salafi fighters are divided between several organizations: The Army of Islam, the Army of the Mujahedeen, the Council of the Mujahedeen, Saladin Brigades, Saladin Units, the Popular Resistance Committees, Al Ansar Brigades, and Omar Hadid Brigades. Al Sabireen, an Iranian proxy, has just under 1,000 fighters, and several smaller militias are also active.