Early on Aug. 23, the Israeli Air Force struck a “terror site” south of Beirut, Lebanon. An IDF spokesman said the attack near the town of Na’ameh was in response to the rocket fire from Lebanon on Aug. 22.
“Yesterday’s attack is a blatant breach [of] Israeli sovereignty that jeopardized Israeli civilian life. Israel will not tolerate terrorist aggression originating from Lebanese territory. The IDF will continue to operate to safeguard the State of Israel and its civilians,” an IDF statement said.
The pilots involved in the mission returned safely after striking their intended target, according to the IDF.
In a statement posted on its website, the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) said the strike targeted one of its facilities. A statement from the Lebanese Armed Forces confirmed that underground tunnels belonging to a Palestinian faction were targeted. A Lebanese security source told Reuters the targeted site “was home as well to Islamist militants.”
A PFLP-GC official warned that the group will respond to the Israeli strike “in the right place and the right time,” according to press reports.
On Aug. 22, an official from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed on Twitter that the group’s Ziad Jarrah Batallions had launched the rockets, one of which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The group has yet to issue a formal statement, however.
In response to the Aug. 22 attack, the IDF said that it held the Lebanese government and Lebanese Armed Forces responsible although it believed members of the “global jihad” launched the rockets. In addition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “Anyone who harms us should know and anyone who tries to harm us should know we will harm them back.”
Israeli authorities are investigating why the Iron Dome missile defense system failed to intercept more of the rockets fired from Lebanon on Aug. 22, according to Ynet News.
A statement from the Lebanese Armed Forces said they had found the suspected launch site of the rockets and were working “in coordination with UNIFIL to uncover the circumstances and to determine the identity of the perpetrators.”
Background on the Abdullah Azzam Brigades
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades was formed by Saleh al Qarawi sometime after 2004 as an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq, and was tasked with hitting targets in the Levant and throughout the Middle East. Al Qarawi is now believed to be in Saudi custody. The group is now led by Majid bin Muhammad al Majid.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades is named after al Qaeda’s co-founder and Osama bin Laden’s mentor. The group was added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in May 2012.
Qarawi has been described as a “field commander” by Flashpoint Intel, which published a translation of an interview that was released in April 2010. According to Qarawi, he fought with former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Fallujah (presumably in the two battles in 2004), and was ordered by Zarqawi to form the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
“Allah rewarded me to participate with my brothers in Fallujah, and I came to know the Sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi–may Allah have mercy on him–closely, and he assigned me to a job outside of Iraq,” he said.
In the same interview, Qarawi said that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades are tasked with striking not only with striking in Lebanon but also elsewhere.
“[The Abdullah Azzam Brigades] are not confined to Lebanon but there are targets that our fires will reach Allah‐willing in the near future … the Brigades are formed of a number of groups that are spread in numerous places … and the groups of ‘Ziad al‐Jarrah’ in Lebanon are only some of our groups, and we rushed to create these groups and announced them because of the urgency of the battle with the Jews and the priority of the initiative at the time and the place, but the rest of the groups are outside Lebanon.”
The “Ziad al Jarrah” is one of several battalions in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. It operates primarily in Lebanon, and is named after Ziad al Jarrah, a Lebanese citizen who was one of the masterminds of the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. He was the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Penn. after passengers attempted to retake the plane from the terrorist hijackers.
Yusuf al ‘Uyayri Battalion, another unit in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, operates on the Arabian Peninsula and has claimed it executed the attack on the M Star, a Japanese oil tanker traveling off the coast of Oman from Qatar to Japan.
The US State Department has said that the group “is responsible for numerous indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.” In addition to the rocket fire from Lebanon noted by the State Dept., the group has also claimed responsibility for rockets fired from Gaza into Israel on multiple occasions.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades releases propaganda on a routine basis. Over the past three years, the group has advocated for the overthrow of the Saudi government and called for an uprising in Lebanon, as well as voiced support for jihad in Syria. The terror group also released a statement immediately after the death of al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
“May Allah have mercy on Osama, the Sheikh of Jihad, the Imam of Piety, the example of asceticism and the model of patience, the pioneer of glory in this age, and the awakener of the Ummah from its slumber,” the terror group said, in a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The group also said it had been formed “after incitation” by bin Laden.
“We in the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam bear witness that we only went out for jihad after incitation from Sheikh Osama bin Laden, by his words and his actions. He is the one enacted among the people of the time, the tradition to invade infidels in their homes, and created a front to fight the Jews and the Crusaders,” the statement said.
More recently, on Aug. 17, Sirajuddin Zurayqat, a member of the jihadist group, offered a eulogy in video posted to jihadist forums for former deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula Said al Shihri, who was confirmed dead by AQAP on July 16.
Additionally, the group has expressed strong disdain for Hezbollah’s role in the ongoing Syrian civil war. In a recent statement, Majid bin Muhammad al Majid, a leader in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, called on Sunnis to fight Hezbollah and its interests, which he deemed “legitimate targets.”