Established By: Fadi al-Mellah; Abu Ali Badran; Munir Abboud (Badr Brigades commander)
Also Known As: Quwat al-Jalil; Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves;
Country Of Origin: Syria
Leaders: Fadi al-Mellah; Munir Abboud;
Operational Area: Syria, Lebanon, Gaza Strip;
Number Of Members: 4,800
Involved In: Suicide attacks, Terrorist attacks, Recruiting terrorists, Terror financing, Kidnapping
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The Galilee Forces (Quwat al-Jalil) are a Palestinian militia allied with the Ba’athist Syrian government, currently fighting in the Syrian Civil War. Its serves as the armed wing of the Movement of the Youth of the Palestinian Return (Harakat Shabab al-Oudat al-Falastinia). The Galilee Forces have a sub-unit, the Badr Brigades, which is active in Aleppo.
– Very little is known about the Galilee Forces except for the bits of information published in the media over the years. An article published in 2016 claimed they operated under the full supervision of Hezbollah (Baladi News, January 12, 2016). An article published in 2017 claimed that on May 14, 2012 the establishment of a youth movement called “Palestinian youth of the return” was announced in Syria, and the Galilee Forces were in effect its military wing, receiving support from the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. The article also stated that it supported the Syrian regime in its “struggle” against the rebels (Baladi News, augh 30, 2017). According to another report, the organization’s operatives gained combat experience fighting the rebels in Syria and ISIS in eastern Syria, in Qalamoun and al-Tabaqah (Baladi News, June 12, 2016). The organization is headed by Fadi al-Malah, and as of 2011 it had “thousands of fighters” (al-Jarida, April 24, 2022).
– According to an article published in 2022, Israel attacked a Galilee Forces’ target in Syria after exposing contacts between them and other Palestinian organizations. The article claimed the Galilee Forces was a group of Syrian Palestinians who had received weapons from Hezbollah and had fought alongside the Syrian regime forces in 2011. It also claimed that some of the Palestinian “fighters” has infiltrated Israel and carried out attacks using delegations of students from Arab countries (al-Jarida, April 22, 2022). A different article reported that the commander of the Galilee Forces, Fadi al-Malah, also belonged to the leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and operated in Syria in coordination with the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran. Its forces reportedly participated in the battles in Qalamoun, Deir al-Zor, Aleppo and others (al-Jarida, April 24, 2022).
– The organization claims to have carried out many terrorist attacks in Israel. For example, the shooting attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on March 6, 2008, where eight students were killed and ten wounded. According to the Galilee Forces, the terrorist who carried out the attack was Alaa Hashem Abu Adhim, from Jabal Mukaber in southeast Jerusalem, one of the founders of the Palestinian Galilee Forces (Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves Telegram channel, March 6, 2023).
– According to another of the organization’s Telegram channels, the attack against the yeshiva was its first “action.” The channel devoted a discussion to the stages of establishing the organization and its connection with the Galilee Forces youth movement and the Free Sons of the Galilee. One person who participated in the discussion said that between 2008 and 2010 the organization operated in small cells both inside Israel and beyond its borders (Lone Wolves – Galilee Forces Telegram channel, March 15, 2023).
– An announcement issued on March 6, 2023 (before the IED attack at the Megiddo Junction) referred to terrorists who carried out attacks in Israel as “our shaheeds.” They claim as members terrorists who were not necessarily Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves operatives, such as Raad Khazem (who carried out the shooting attack on Dizengoff Street on April 7, 2023, and was recognized as an al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (AAMB) operative); Uday al-Tamimi (who carried out the shooting attack at the Shuafat Junction on October 8, 2022 and killed an IDF soldier. He was shot to death 11 days later while attempting a shooting attack at Ma’aleh Adumim, and was recognized as a Palestinian Islamic Jihad – Jenin Battalion terrorist operative); and Kheiri al-Qum (who carried out a shooting attack in the Naveh Yaakov neighborhood on January 23, 2023).
– Most of the Galilee Forces’ media activity is carried out on the social organizations, especially the Telegram channel, with the names Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves Telegram channel and Lone Wolves – Galilee Forces Telegram channel. They post many texts in Hebrew, but often the language is incorrect and obviously computer-translated. The posts include vulgar threats and calls to kill Jews. They also post many well-edited videos, often quoting the Israeli media. Some of their postings clearly reveal their links to Hezbollah and Iran.
The organization has three Telegram channels. Two of them have several dozen followers and one has more than 2000:
– Lion’s Den – Galilee Forces, 59 followers.
– Lone Wolves – Gaza Strip, 99 followers.
– Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves, 2,419 followers. The profile picture is the logo of the Syrian organization, and the mother organization is also mentioned, the Palestinian Youth Organization of the Return. On March 20, 2023, the channel posted a video with instructions for making gunpowder for “IEDs, pipe grenades, hand grenades and the beginning of missile manufacture.” The hashtag was “preparations for war.”
The Terrorist Attack at the Megiddo Junction and the Claim of Responsibility:
– On the morning of March 13, 2023, an IED exploded on the shoulder of the road near the Megiddo Junction in northern Israel, damaging a passing vehicle and critically wounding the 21 year-old driver from the Arab village of Salem in the Jezreel Valley. An investigation was launched after security personnel reported the IED was unlike those used by the Palestinians, but similar to those Hezbollah used to attack IDF forces in south Lebanon.
– Before any information had been published in Israel, a organization calling itself the Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves claimed responsibility for the attack. The announcement on its Telegram channel was accompanied by a picture of a wolf and the organization’s logo, and claimed that one of its operatives placed an IED they had prepared at the Megiddo Junction in “northern occupied Palestine,” and exploded it near a vehicle. The announcement also claimed that the “wolf” had escaped (Galilee Forces Telegram channel, March 13, 2023). The videos on the channel were signed “Combat Information,” a familiar Hezbollah term. The channel published pictures of important Israeli locations, such as the Knesset, the Kirya in Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion International Airport. There was also a picture of the Netanyahu family with the caption, “The next target.”
– The claim of responsibility began with Verse 17 from Qur’an Surah 17, “The spoils of war,” which deals with jihad against infidels. The verse appears in both Shi’ite and Sunni publications, making it difficult to assign the announcement to either one.
The claim of responsibility (Galilee Forces Telegram channel, March 13, 2023).
– Two days later, on March 15, 2023, Israel officially released detailed information about the attack. According to the announcement, the Israeli special ops security forces pursuing the terrorist who placed the IED located a suspicious vehicle near the Israel-Lebanon border. They halted the vehicle and the driver got out with his hands raised, while the terrorist remained sitting inside wearing an explosive belt ready for detonation. He posed a danger to the forces and was shot and killed. More weapons were found inside the vehicle. According to the initial investigation, he arrived in Israel from Lebanon, and after the attack caught a ride and asked the driver to take him to the north (IDF spokesman, March 15, 2023). It was later revealed that he crossed the border using a ladder, parts of which were found in his duffle bag. According to Israeli sources, crossing the border necessitates the extensive, precise collection of intelligence about the region, and apparently Hezbollah was involved in preparing the attack (Israeli media, March 22, 2023).
– After the IDF spokesman’s announcement, the Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves issued a statement claiming the IDF information was false and had been published to project the image of business as usual despite the seriousness of the situation. The Galilee Forces’ claimed they challenged Israel’s intelligence services to publish information about the terrorist, whom they claimed had neither been caught nor killed and was currently in a safe location. They also promised they would continue to attack the enemy and achieve their goals, both inside and outside “Palestine,” stressing the unity of all the organizations which believed in the “armed struggle” [anti-Israeli terrorism]. The announcement was signed by the “Revolutionary Council of the Galilee Forces – Lone Wolves (Watan, March 15, 2023).
The Galilee Forces’ announcement (Watan, March 15, 2023).
– On August 10, 2007, a man went up to two security guards at the Ataret Cohanim yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, snatched the weapon of one, shot him in the shoulder and fled. The other guard pursued him, and shot and killed him. The security guard and several passersby were wounded. The attack was carried out by Ahmed Mahmoud Khatib, and Israeli Arab from Kafr Manda in the Galilee. Three Palestinian terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the attack: Fatah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the PFLP. A fourth group, the Battalions of the Free Sons of the Galilee also claimed responsibility.
– On March 6, 2008, a terrorist operative carried out a shooting attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, killing eight students and wounding ten. The shooter was Alaa Hashem Abu Adhim, from Jabal Mukaber, southeast of Jerusalem, a school bus driver who held an Israeli ID. Apparently the target was not random and the attack had been carefully prepared, including collecting intelligence on the location and its routines. Adhim’s family erected a mourning notice for him decorated with Hamas and Hezbollah flags which were taken down on orders from the Israeli police. Immediately after the attack several organizations claimed responsibility for it, including the Battalions of the Free Sons of the Galilee – Squad of the Shaheed Imad Mughnieh and the Palestinians killed in Gaza (al-Manar, March 6, 2023). Ma’an reported that the attack had been carried out jointly by the Free Sons of the Galilee and Hamas, but the Free Sons of the Galilee did not want to expose its involvement in the attack (Ma’an, March 7, 2008). Hamas issued an announcement contradicting Ma’an regarding its involvement in the attack. An anonymous member of the Hamas leadership claimed one of its operatives carried out it out (Reuters, March 7, 2008) Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, did not officially claim responsibility but such an announcement may have been deferred for reasons of security (Radio Sawt al-Aqsa, March 6, 2008; al-Jazeera, March 7, 2008).
– On March 5, 2009, a Palestinian driving a front loader near the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem deliberately rammed into a police patrol car, injuring two policemen inside. The driver was shot and wounded, and died in the hospital. The terrorist was Mari’ al-Rudeida, 24 years old, from Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem. His relatives claimed he did not belong to any organization and was not particularly religious. The Free Sons of the Galilee claimed responsibility for the attack.
– On March 21, 2009, an attempt was made to detonate a car bomb in the Lev Hamifratz shopping mall in Haifa. Police forces arriving at the site found the vehicle with an IED weighting several dozen pounds. The device did not explode. The Free Sons of the Galilee claimed responsibility for the attempted attack (al-Ayam TV, March 22, 2009).