Abu Ubaida, born Hudayfa Samir Abdullah al-Kahlout, is the spokesman of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Ubaida is part of the brigades’ senior command and has spoken on behalf of the brigades for more than a decade.Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi, “Hamas’ Strategy Revealed,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2014, https://jcpa.org/hamas-strategies/.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades comprise Hamas’s military wing. Created in 1991 with the reported aim to block negotiations between Israel and the PLO, the wing is named after a Muslim preacher who, in 1930, formed the “Black Hand,” an anti-Zionist and anti-British organization.Jack Khoury, “Jabari deputy likely to be Hamas’ next military commander,” Haaretz, November 25, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/jabari-deputy-likely-to-be-hamas-next-military-commander.premium-1.480253. It is uncertain when Ubaida was named spokesman of the brigades. However, media sources have referred to Ubaida as the official Qassam Brigades spokesman since at least 2007.“Explosion in Gaza City as Israeli planes pound Hamas targets,” Irish Examiner, May 18, 2007, https://www.irishexaminer.com/world/arid-30311258.html. Since then, Ubaida has delivered numerous statements on behalf of the brigades, including words of support for Palestinian resistance of Israeli occupation as well as claims of responsibility and threats for terror attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.“Hamas' Military Wing,” IDF, https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/hamas/hamas/hamas-military-wing/; “Hamas fired "defensively" at Israelis in Gaza,” Reuters, March 26, 2010, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-israel-violence-hamas/hamas-fired-defensively-at-israelis-in-gaza-idUSTRE62P2VT20100326.
In a 2010 interview, Ubaida claimed that he joined Hamas as part of the resistance movement against “the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands.”Nilantha Ilangamuwa, “Interview With Abu Obeida,” Countercurrents, June 22, 2010, https://countercurrents.org/obeida220610.htm. The Qassam Brigades, under the leadership of Mohammed Deif, have carried out many attacks on Israeli targets. Attack techniques have included suicide bus bombings, soldier kidnappings, and the digging of tunnel networks to launch attacks inside Israeli territory.Sudarsan Raghavan, “Mohammed Deif, the Shadowy Figure Who Heads Hamas’s Military Wing,” Washington Post, August 02, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/mohammed-deif-the-shadowy-figure-who-heads-hamass-military-wing/2014/08/02/ed68c46e-1a85-11e4-85b6-c1451e622637_story.html?utm_term=.4af3eb17cb12; Joe Truzman, “Latest al-Qassam Brigades publication touts its military advancements,” Long War Journal, March 21, 2021, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2021/03/latest-al-qassam-brigades-publication-touts-its-military-advancements.php.
In May 2021, violent altercations significantly erupted between Israeli forces and Hamas. On May 1, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that at least 13 Palestinian families must vacate their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in a legal dispute over the original rights to the properties and rent payments.Linah Alsaafin, “What is happening in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah?,” Al Jazeera, May 1, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/1/what-is-happening-in-occupied-east-jerusalems-sheikh-jarrah; “Palestinian shot dead after car rams Israeli police in Jerusalem,” Al Jazeera, May 16, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/16/palestinian-shot-dead-after-car-rams-israeli-police-in-jerusalem. Riots broke out in Jerusalem and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, sparking police responses. The supreme court was due to make a ruling in the case on May 9 but delayed its decision because of the violence.Aaron Boxerman, “Supreme Court delays session on Sheikh Jarrah evictions amid Jerusalem violence,” Times of Israel, May 9, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/supreme-court-delays-session-on-sheikh-jarrah-evictions-amid-jerusalem-tensions/; Hadas Gold, “Israeli Supreme Court delays hearing on Palestinian evictions from East Jerusalem neighborhood,” CNN, May 9, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/09/middleeast/jerusalem-sheikh-jarrah-unrest/index.html. Given the rising tension in Sheikh Jarrah, Hamas intervened and began to launch rocket attacks on Israel on May 10, joining with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in firing more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers over the next two weeks. Ubaida has championed these demonstrations and attacks and in a speech released on al-Qassam’s Telegram account, called for all Palestinians to “rise to battle in every field.”Alex MacDonald, “Hamas commander hails 'unity' of Palestinian struggle,” Middle East Eye, May 13, 2021, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hamas-armed-wing-commander-hails-unity-palestinians-al-aqsa-struggle. Ubaida claimed Hamas launched rocket strikes on Israel bigger than any seen since Israel’s 1948 Independence War.Anna Ahronheim, Tovah Lazaroff, Tzvi Joffre, and Sarah Ben-Nun, “IDF preps for ground invasion as rockets continue to pound Israel,” Jerusalem Post, May 14, 2021, https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/israel-striking-gaza-in-response-to-rocket-barrage-directed-at-jerusalem-667776.