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Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades

The brigades are a group of West Bank militias affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's al-Fatah faction and have been one of the driving forces behind the al-Aqsa Intifada, emerging shortly afterwards. It is named after the Al-Aqsa Mosque, probably in memory of Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to the Mountain at the beginning of the intifada.

While the group initially vowed to target only Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in early 2002 it began a spree of terrorist attacks against civilians in Israeli cities. In March 2002, after a deadly al-Aqsa Brigades suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the State Department added the group to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The brigade is neither officially recognised nor openly backed by Mr Arafat and Fatah, though brigade members tend also to be members of Fatah, the Palestinian leader's political faction

Israel arrested Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Brigades in April 2002, and in August charged him with numerous accounts of manslaughter, conspiracy to manslaughter and membership in a terrorist organization. In addition to his "shadow job" at the brigades, Barghouti had also served as the general secretary of Fatah in the West Bank.

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