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The Palestinian National Guard (Arabic: الحرس الوطني الفلسطيني al-ḥaras al-waṭanī al-falasṭīnī) is a unified umbrella command of multiple state-sponsored community militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Corps as well as pro-government (mostly Ba'athist) brigades, which functions as the official armed wing of the ruling Palestinian Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party. It exists alongside the armed forces as a parallel chain of command, subsidised by the state but directly subordinate to the Military Bureau of the Palestinian Regional Branch. The National Guard commands an estimated 159,000 personnel who have separate full-time occupations, meeting regularly to train with their unit and regiment as in the reserves.

History[]

The tradition of Fedayeen (freedom fighters) goes back to at least the early British mandate, when Palestinian irregulars formed community militias to defend themselves and contest British and Jewish ambitions in the region. After the establishment of the First Palestinian Republic, most of the forces that had not become part of the All-Palestine Army during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War were disbanded. After the Palestinian defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequent occupation by Israel, the tradition was revived, with multiple Fedayeen forces setting up and allying themselves with various Palestinian political parties, notably the Ba'athists and Communists. Most of these militias as well as multiple nonpartisan community militias became part of the Ba'athist-led Palestinian National Salvation Front during the 1976–79 Sinai War, which ended with an Israeli withdrawal. After the war, the new ruling Ba'athist administration created the National Guard, which institutionalised all the community militias and partisan brigades that had not become part of the restored Palestinian Armed Forces. All Ba'athist militias and the great majority of militias allied to other PNSF member parties pledged allegiance to the new regime and were incorporated into the structure of the newly formed National Guard in February 1980; militias which did not join were subsequently disarmed by the Gendarmerie.

During the Mount Zion Wars of 1994 and 1996, the National Guard played an invaluable role in holding and defending home territory, thus freeing up reservists to be activated and allowing regular Palestinian forces to stay on the offensive along the frontline and focus on strategic operations. National Guard militiamen were essential to maintaining law and order, including food rationing and conscriptions, in spite of an almost complete breakdown of governmental authority in the face of Israeli military superiority, especially in the first war of 1994.

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