Jonathan D. Halevi: An Oman born Palestinian, Husam Samir al-Hams, a naturalized Canadian citizen, who enlisted with Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, has been killed fighting Israeli forces in Gaza.
In recent years Canada has ‘exported’ dozens of Mujahideens (Muslim ‘strugglers’ for Allah) who have fought on various jihad frontlines, among them, Somalia, the Caucuses, Syria, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Mali, Algeria, Libya and Afghanistan. This list now includes the Gaza Strip.
The Azzadin al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has officially announced that Husam Samir al-Hams, a member of the organization and a Canadian citizen, was killed in an Israeli military operation in November 2012.
The al-Qassam website outlines the life story of Husam al-Hams in a special chapter dedicated to his memory. Husam was born on March 21, 1976, in Muscat the capital of Oman to a family whose origins are Palestinian, comprising five children (one of his brothers is named Muhammad). After several years his family moved to Dubai, where he lived until 1993.
When he was seventeen Husam and his family moved to Canada in order to obtain Canadian citizenship. Once they were successful, the family moved to the Gaza Strip in 2000, settling in the city of Rafah in the Tel al-Sultan neighborhood. Husam who remained in Canada joined his family two years later. Husam took advantage of his Canadian nationality to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank, in all probability between 2000 and 2002.
Husam is described as possessing an Islamic religious awareness instilled in him at a tender age when studying at an Islamic seminary in the emirate of Ajman. He completed his high school studies in Canada, during which time he showed interest in computer maintenance, dabbled in auto mechanics, and worked in a plastic manufacturing company, a meat packing company, and for a ceramics contractor. He also engaged in physical activity: running, swimming, playing tennis, and body building.
In the Gaza Strip Husam studied at the local technological college, specializing in computer network management, subsequent to which he opened a shop providing computer maintenance services. At a later stage he completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Husam married, presumably in the Gaza Strip, and the couple had three daughters: Yara, Shaza, and Fatima. It is not known whether his wife is a Canadian citizen, or whether his daughters acquired Canadian citizenship.
Shortly after arriving in the Gaza Strip in 2002 Husam joined the Hamas, and later pledged oath to the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Husam was appointed an instructor of a ‘Dawa’ group, where he served as a religious and faith teacher and guide to his group. Husam was accepted to the al-Qassam Brigades in 2005.
Husam’s military training involved tunnel digging, explosives, a stint in an anti-tank unit ending with his posting to an anti-aircraft unit.
In tandem with his activity in the al-Qassam Brigades, Husam also served as an officer in the intervention and order keeping force of the Palestinian police force, subservient to the Hamas ministry of interior in the Gaza Strip.
Husam acquired considerable fighting experience. He took part in ambushes and in dozens of shooting incidents at Israeli aircraft and naval vessels, participated in fighting against Israeli military forces during operation ‘Cast Lead’ in 2008-2009, and ‘Pillar of Fire’ in 2012.
During the final days of fighting (November 17, 2012) an Israeli military aircraft attacked the anti-aircraft position Husam was manning together with his al-Qassam Brigades’ colleague, Mukhlis Adwan. Adwan was killed on the spot and Husam was critically wounded. He was taken through the Rafah crossing to an Egyptian hospital where he died of his wounds on November 29, 2012.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (www.jcpa.org). He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.