Al-Ahrar, a network of "former Fatah operatives in the Gaza Strip," has recently established a military wing supported by Hamas, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Israeli-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC).
Al-Ahrar was founded shortly after Hamas engaged in a bloody battle with Fatah and took control over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Al-Ahrar supports "armed struggle" to end the "Israeli occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza, and has been supported by Hamas since its inception, according to the intelligence report.
Al-Ahrar announced the establishment of its movement's military wing, the "Al-Ansar Battalions," on July 7 with ceremonies and parades during which flags of the U.S. and Israel were stomped on or set on fire. Hamas administration officials in the Gaza Strip attended several of the celebrations and praised the group:
"The actions of the Al-Ahrar movement since its establishment prove that it is a true continuation of the movement of resistance in its adherence to rights, fundamental principles, and defense of the resistance," Hamas Legislative Council Deputy Ahmed Bahar said.
On July 8, the leader of Al-Ahrar, Khaled Abu Hilal, said the new military wing was "ready to join the ranks of resistance and fight against the occupation."
During Al-Ahrar's "military" ceremony, flags of Turkey were raised and a representative of IHH gave a video address congratulating Al-Ahrar. IHH is a Turkish NGO whose ties to Hamas have been confirmed by the U.S. government. The U.S. State Department is also considering designating the organization as a terrorist group.
To view the full report on Al-Ahrar released by ITIC, click here.