Joint Room and ‘Unity of the Squares’: What Will the Next Israeli War on Gaza Look Like

The Joint Room of the Palestinian Resistance Factions. (Photo: via Al Jazeera Net)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera Net Arabic, Ayman Nofal, Commander of Military Relations and a member of the General Military Council of Hamas’s military arm, Qassam Brigades, spoke about the last Israeli war on Gaza and the future wars.

A new political discourse has been shaped around the unity of the Palestinian Resistance in Gaza and the West Bank. This unity discourse was not a random occurrence, but an outcome of a process that began in 2018, when leading military arms of the Palestinian movement formed the ‘Joint Operations Room of Resistance Factions.’

Since then, the reference to ‘Palestinian unity’ shifted from that of political unity – namely between leading Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah – to the unification of armed resistance. Later, another term emerged, Wihdat al-Sahat, or the Unity of the Squares, which expanded the concept of unity to reach all forms of resistance throughout Palestine. 

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera Net Arabic, Ayman Nofal, Commander of Military Relations and a member of the General Military Council of Hamas’s military arm, Qassam Brigades, spoke about the last Israeli war on Gaza in May and the future wars. 

Here are selected topics and translated comments based on the interview.  For the full interview (Arabic), click here

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What is the Joint Operation Room? 

“The Joint Room of the Palestinian Resistance Factions in its current and final form was established in 2018, during the start of the return marches (Great March of Return) in the Gaza Strip, and the events and confrontations accompanying these marches. The need arose at that time to establish a coordinating body between the factions to agree on the rules and mechanisms of confrontation and manage the battle militarily with the enemy.

“The Joint Room played its first round after its official formation in the ‘Loyalty to the Martyrs’ operation at the end of May 2018, after the martyrdom of three resistance men from the Qassam Brigades and the Jerusalem Brigades. The men (fighters?) were killed in a treacherous artillery shelling by the enemy army. After the enemy army invaded our rebellious people participating in the return marches, the Joint Room imposed rules of engagement in its conflict with the enemy, that the shelling is shelling and blood is blood.

“The Joint Room also played a major role in the ‘People’s Shield’ round in May 2019 to repel the enemy from the incursion into the Gaza Strip, and its major role was prominent in the ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ battle in 2021 from the beginning of the battle to its end.”

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What Are the Current Military Wings of the Gaza Resistance? 

“Within the Joint Room are the vast majority of the military wings of the Palestinian resistance factions, and we consider this one of their greatest achievements, as they formed a comprehensive framework for the resistance with its various political and intellectual spectrums and references.

“While the number of military cases before the formation of the Joint Room reached more than 40, it is now 10 military wings, each of which has its own political reference, as part of the chamber’s endeavor to organize military action in a governmental and popular environment that incubates resistance.

“The factions currently included in the Joint Room are: the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Martyr Brigades, the Al-Quds Brigades, the Abu Ali Mustafa Martyr Brigades, the National Resistance Brigades, the Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the Mujahideen Brigades, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Nidal Al-Amoudi Brigades, the Jihad Jibril Martyr Brigades, in addition to the Ansar Brigades.

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How Palestinians Coordinate Their Resistance? 

“There is a state of permanent communication and coordination between the components of the Joint Room, in normal times and in times of emergency and wars. The work of the Resistance is a continuous work and not only in a time of confrontation and direct war,. Therefore, the room provides all factions with appropriate facilities to work in multiple aspects that cannot be fully detailed.

“However, we mention the provision of command and control systems, strengthening communication between the components of the chamber in normal times and in the event of war, providing operational and intelligence situation assessments, sharing the aspect of logistical support and armament according to specific mechanisms, as well as advancing practical and fruitful steps towards unifying military knowledge to reach a common understanding and a unified military and security knowledge background.

“From this standpoint, the Chamber’s leadership worked to enhance the military knowledge and expertise of field commanders in the resistance wings, so it enrolled a number of them to study at the Palestine Military Academy of the Qassam Brigades, and several regiments graduated from the Academy over the past years.

“The Chamber’s leadership established its own military site at the end of last year, launched many joint training courses for military wing trainers and fighters, and held the ‘Severe Corner’ exercises, which were the first at the end of 2020. They then became a periodic annual exercise, not the last of which are the ‘Severe Corner 3’ exercises in December 2022. These exercises aim to raise the degree of combat efficiency of resistance fighters and maintain high readiness.”

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Does Palestinian Resistance Operate Based on a Centralized Decision-Making Process? 

“Of course, the Resistance is advancing year after year and developing its work mechanisms, and benefiting from its experiences, whether in the aspect of promoting achievements or correcting and addressing mistakes. Therefore, the Resistance today has reached a stage where war and confrontation can only be undertaken by a unified, collective and thoughtful decision; taking into account the accumulation of force and dealing painful blows to the enemy; and choosing the timing, place, form and tools of the battle, in order to serve the goals of our people and inflict the maximum possible harm to the enemy and thwart its plans.

“There is no doubt that some battles are imposed on our people to respond to the barbaric aggression of the occupation. In all cases, the Joint Room addresses the decision of confrontation. It is held before and during the battle, whatever its cause, and proceeds in the rhythm of confrontation systems, in consultation and coordination at the highest levels, in terms of the size of the activation of the force, timings, shooting ranges and sizes, and the nature of participation of the different factions, according to considerations determined by the leadership of the chamber in coordination, consultation and consensus, as well as the exchange of information and assessments of the situation first-hand, to all the details of military action that do not There is room for their narrative.

“Here, it must be emphasized that the wings of the Joint Room have their political references, which consult with them in making the decision to engage in confrontation, which is a unified collective national decision.”

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“The aggression against our people is one aggression and its title is one, which is the Occupation. Perhaps, (the Occupation) wanted to single out the Al-Quds Brigades in the last battle by focusing the targeting by assassination on the leadership of the companies, headed by Commander Khalil Al-Bahtini, one of the commanders of the Joint Room, as well as Commander Jihad Al-Ghannam, Commander Tariq Ezz Al-Din, and later Commander Hassan Ghali, Commander Ahmed Abu Daqqa and Commander Iyad Al-Hasani.

“But the Joint Room broke the enemy’s goal by singling out and closing the operation file from its early hours, and we immediately led the room in consultation with the leadership of the Al-Quds Brigades, which received the flag from after the martyr commanders, and by managing the battle, prolonging the response and silently controlling the course of the confrontation in a thoughtful and consensual manner.

“Here, we would like to emphasize that the enemy should not be allowed to single out any arena or front of confrontation, in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the occupied interior. Our people and their living forces should take the initiative to thwart the enemy in singling out any area or component, and to rise to scatter its cards and turn the tables on it, and our people are able to do so with God’s help, and the facts and events have clearly proven that.”

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What is the ‘Unity of the Squares’?

“Gaza and its resistance are the spearheads in this trend, and the biggest proof of this is that the Joint Room was strongly present in the battle of the ‘Sword of Blessed Jerusalem’ in 2021, which confirmed the compass of our people and their resistance against the enemy entity.

“The circles are expanding around Jerusalem, from Palestine occupied in 48, through the West Bank, Gaza and the parties of the axis of resistance, to the masses of the Arab and Islamic nation and the free world, and each role is important and obligatory. Gaza, with its resistance and its common room, is the long arm, the sword and the solid shield of these squares with its proactive and strong national decision.

(Editor’s Note: The above are selected translations from the full interview in Arabic. The questions/ subheadings are the phrasing of The Palestine Chronicle, not Al Jazeera Net. For the full interview, click here)

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