Hezbollah on Friday issued a warning to President Barack Obama and the United States through a senior Hezbollah source who declared: "A large-scale Western strike on Syria will plunge Lebanon virtually and immediately into the inferno of a war with Israel." But while Hezbollah is caught up in the Syrian civil war on the side of the brutal and deadly President Bashar al-Assad military forces, an al-Qaeda-linked group is emerging to replace Hezbollah as the Islamist power in Lebanon, according to an Israeli source.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which allegedly launched a rocket attack on the Israelis on Aug. 22, 2013, is an Islamist network ideologically affiliated with the global jihad such as the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, according to officials with Meir Amit Information Center in Tel Aviv.
The United States placed the organization on its list of designated terrorist organizations in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of State.
The Lebanese-wing of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades is in the midst of a violent rivalry with Hezbollah, which spilled over from Syria into Lebanon. During July 2013 the organization claimed responsibility for attacking the vehicle of a senior Hezbollah figure, who was killed during the attack in the region of Majdal Anjar, on the Lebanon-Syria border .
On June 17, 2013, the AAB issued a biting statement about Hezbollah due to its entrance into the Syrian civil war against the Sunnis .
According to Meir Amit, "The Abdullah Azzam Brigades was founded in 2009 on the orders of a Saudi Arabian Al-Qaeda operative named Saleh bin Abdallah al-Qaraawi, who fought side by side with Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. However, Saleh al-Qaraawi was badly wounded by a missile fired at his house in Afghanistan by the United States. [As a result] he no longer actively heads the organization."
The name of the terrorist was given despite the fact that previous jihadist networks in the Middle East which had claimed responsibility for terrorist activities had already called themselves the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
The group is named after Dr. Abdullah Yussuf Azzam, a Palestinian from the village of Silat al-Harthiya in the Jenin district. During his studies in Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and developed a radical Islamic ideology which was later adopted by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, according to Meir Amit.
"Abdullah Azzam was assassinated in Peshwar, Pakistan, on Nov. 24, 1989. His ideology was based on the perception of jihad as the personal and concrete duty of every Muslim. He is admired and a role model for both the jihadists fighting the Assad regime in Syria and because of his Palestinian origins, admired by Hamas [which has named mosques, streets and even its military academy in the Gaza Strip for him]," officials at Meir Amit noted.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades has a branch in Lebanon that operates in the Palestinian refugee camps, especially in Ein al-Hilweh on the outskirts of Sidon in Lebanon.
According to Saleh al-Qaraawi, who who founded the terrorist group, the Lebanese branch is called the Ziyad al-Jarrah Companies and its stated mission is to initiate terrorist attacks against the Jewish State from its territory in Lebanon, as did Hezbollah in the past.
He also said that the network's activities in Lebanon would not be limited to rocket fire at Israel and that they had a variety of tactics "to surprise the enemy," Meir Amit reported.
According to the Lebanese media, the organization also announced a jihad against the UN peacekeeping forces in south Lebanon.
Ziyad Al-Jarrah, for whom the branch in Lebanon was named, was of Lebanese origin, one of the 19 terrorists who carried out the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He lived in Germany for a number of years where he married and from Germany he went to Afghanistan. Finally, after allegedly training there he moved to the United States in order to participate in the attack on 9-11.