Interview with Abu Tariq: Commander in the Nasser Salahuddin Brigades

Two members of the Nasser Saluhddin Brigades. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)
Published Monday, August 25, 2014
The war on Gaza is now in its 49th day. The Resistance continues to fire rockets at the same rate as the first day of the conflict. Al-Akhbar, not without difficulty, was able to meet Abu Tariq, a field commander in the Nasser Salahuddin Brigades, the military arm of the Popular Resistance Committees.

“We ensured that [the location of] rocket storage facilities and platforms remained unknown to collaborators; we do not just have to deal with local spies and agents, but also with regional powers that collaborate with the enemy against us.”

The Nasser Salahuddin Brigades consist of approximately 3,000 fighters, and are the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. The Brigades were formed in 2001 with the beginning of the second intifada, known as the al-Aqsa Intifada, and participated in many operations, most notably the bombing of the first Merkava tank, as well as the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. Its fighters have proven themselves in recent battles.
The following interview started before the most recent truce, and continued after the resumption of hostilities.
Al-Akhbar: The truce between the Palestinian Resistance and Israel has collapsed, and the war has now reignited. Were you in favor of granting the enemy repeated truces?
Abu Tariq: We in the Nasser Salahuddin Brigades, we were against granting the enemy a truce because we feared the enemy would take advantage to reactivate its agents, and gather intelligence on the whereabouts of Resistance fighters, leaders and rocket storage facilities. We said that the Israeli occupation would use this truce to update its intelligence, which may put us at risk. The assassination attempt against the general commander of al-Qassam Brigades, Mohammed al-Deif, proved the validity of this concern, but for the sake of the unity of the Palestinian ranks, we eventually agreed to it.
Al-Akhbar: For your side, how did you take advantage of the truce with the enemy?
AT: We ensured that [the location of] rocket storage facilities and platforms remained unknown to collaborators; we do not just have to deal with local spies and agents, but also with regional powers that collaborate with the enemy against us. This is in addition to field work, where we sought to preserve the morale of Resistance fighters, especially with the repeated ceasefires that could have weakened their morale. As is known, we depend primarily in our fight with the enemy on the resilience of our fighters, and for this reason, we would rotate the duty shifts of the Resistance fighters so that they could check on their families and relatives.
Al-Akhbar:There are reports about the possibility of a ground operation against Gaza. Are you prepared for this contingency, even after 49 days of fighting?
AT: We do not believe that the Israeli army is prepared to fight a ground battle in these circumstances. The outbreak of war in July, a hot month, has handicapped the fair-skinned [Israeli] soldiers. The images published by international agencies show just how comfortable their crowds on the border are.
Furthermore, the enemy’s lack of intelligence regarding the Resistance’s capabilities has denied enemy soldiers the ability to operate freely on the field, because we and the Resistance factions work in utmost secrecy, and work hard for the enemy not to known the nature of our locations and the ambushes that have been prepared. During the last round of ground combat, the soldiers opted to stay inside tanks for fear of sniper fire or capture.
So it seems that the enemy sought a truce to exploit the time factor, and perhaps even wait for temperatures to go down.
But if they return, then this, simply, is better for us than having to go to them. The operations we carried out behind the Green Line cost us tens of thousands of dollars just to reach a tank and attack it, starting with preparation, digging tunnels, and working secretly. With these operations, our best hope was to hit a soldier; so obviously, it is easier if tanks and soldiers came to us instead. In addition, a decision has been made regarding the need to kidnap soldiers. During the battle, we work hard to “sort” the soldiers, that is, classify them and set apart the Druze, Bedouin, and Lahdis [members of the collaborationist South Lebanon Army] embedded in the Israeli army, because the goal is to capture “100-percent Israeli” soldiers, so that we can swap them with our prisoners and guarantee the success of exchanges later.
Al-Akhbar: Are you represented in the joint operations room with the rest of the factions?
AT: There is coordination with all Palestinian factions. We have representatives in the joint operations room whenever it is operationalized, and we are apprised of any field or military developments.
Al-Akhbar: What range have the rockets you fired into occupied cities reached? For how long can you continue to fire rockets?
AT: The enemy does not know the quantity of rockets we have and which ranges they can reach.

“Furthermore, the enemy’s lack of intelligence regarding the Resistance’s capabilities has denied enemy soldiers the ability to operate freely on the field”

In the early days of the war, we bombed the settlements close to Gaza, and the range of the rockets reached 20 to 40 km. After 20 days of the aggression and as the battle on the field evolved, we launched rockets that reached 65 km. With the continuation of the war, the enemy will be surprised with longer ranges and fiercer ground operations. As for the stockpile, we have used less than 10 percent of what we have. With every rocket we launch, there will be one to replace it, because our manufacturing unit has not stopped producing rockets whether during the truce or under bombardment.
Al-Akhbar: How do you bring in raw materials to manufacture these rockets?
AT: The leaders of the Brigades are adamant about continuing to make and develop rockets despite the blockade, and although we know there are agents watching what we do. The development unit in the Brigades is resolved that no matter the cost in blood or treasure to develop our rocket capabilities, we will not stop. In addition to locally manufactured rockets, we use tunnels to bring in weapons and raw materials for manufacturing.
Al-Akhbar: Is there contact between you and Hezbollah?
AT: We feel great gratitude and appreciation for our brothers in Hezbollah, who do not withhold anything from us in the Brigade. They enrolled men and fighters from the Brigade in several military sessions for training with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Our fighters learned new combat skills, and gained a broader knowledge of the type of rocketry, their manufacturing techniques, how to specify coordinates, down to camouflage and planting bombs. We have now excellent knowledge on “cooking explosives” of all kinds. After the members returned to Gaza, carrying military know-how and ideas from Hezbollah, we used these techniques on the battlefield. They have proven their worth in the current war. We have also met with members of Hezbollah who trained our men on making and firing rockets, both inside and outside Gaza.
Al-Akhbar: How do you perceive your cooperation with Hezbollah and the statement its secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, made during the war, saying that Hezbollah will support the Resistance in Gaza?
AT: We at the Nasser Salahuddin Brigades are not surprised by the generosity of the brothers in Hezbollah, led by the honorable Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. We are not surprised by their continued support for our organization, which has not stopped for even a moment.
We pin great hopes on our brothers in Hezbollah, who never let us down, not even for a minute. As is known, the speeches of the honorable Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are sincere, and he does not speak words in vain.
After his recent speech about supporting the Resistance, the enemy moved some soldiers from the south to the north of the entity [i.e. Israel], fearing a military intervention from Hezbollah in the final minutes. We, from Gaza’s borders, monitored the movement of Israeli vehicles, and had information that the enemy had moved some forces to the north as had happened in 2006. Finally, as is known, Hezbollah provides logistical, material, and moral support to the Resistance factions, and many know that this support has not stopped.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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