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May 6, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1762

The Inverted Red Triangle Symbol, Identified With Hamas And Seen In U.S. Student Protests, Is An Open Call For Attacks On Israeli Targets

May 6, 2024 | By L. Alon*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1762

Pro-Hamas expressions, slogans, and symbols are part of the widespread pro-Palestine protests currently taking place at universities across the United States. Among these symbols is the inverted red triangle, which first appeared in Hamas videos of the fighting in Gaza, where it is used to mark an Israeli target about to be attacked. This red triangle now appears on posters and signs at the protests, and a photo published a few days ago even shows a protester making a triangle hand sign at a group of Jewish students.


A protester making the triangle hand sign at a group of Jewish students (Source: Twitter.com/EYakoby, April 26, 2024)


A poster published by a pro-Palestine student group at NYU shows the red triangle symbol (Source: Twitter.com/nyupscoalition/status/1782335700945232365, April 22, 2022)

The red triangle symbol has been identified with Hamas from the beginning of the Gaza war. Since the October 7, 2023 Hamas massacres in southern Israel, in which approximately 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 were taken hostage, Hamas's military wing, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, has been regularly publishing videos from the fighting in Gaza in which Israeli military forces about to be attacked are marked with a moving inverted red triangle. Thanks to the impact and wide circulation of these videos, in the recent months the red triangle has come to symbolize Hamas' war against Israel, and has become a popular anti-Israel symbol expressing open support for Hamas and its terrorist activities. It is often called the "Abu Obaida triangle," after the spokesman of Hamas' military wing.

Following its use in Hamas videos documenting the fighting in Gaza, the triangle soon spread to videos produced in the West Bank as well. It also gained popularity on social media, and now  frequently appears in posts, videos, graphics, usernames and profile pictures. It also features in cartoons published in recent months in the Arab world, especially in the Qatari media, which regularly publishes inciteful anti-Israel content,[1] and can even be seen on clothing and fashion accessories sold online.


An inverted red triangle marking an Israeli tank as a target (Source: Echoroukonline.com, November 14, 2023)

This report presents examples of the widespread use of this symbol in cartoons and on social media.

The Symbol's Origin: Hamas Videos Of The Fighting In Gaza

As stated, the inverted red triangle, also called the "red arrow," first appeared in videos of the fighting in Gaza published by Hamas's military wing, where it is used to mark Israeli military targets, such as soldiers, tanks and bulldozers, about to be attacked. Below are several examples:


The triangle marking an Israeli tank before it is hit (Source: T.me/Qassambrigades, February 26, 2024)


Israeli soldiers marked by red triangles (Source: T.me/Qassambrigades, February 12, 2024)


Israeli helicopter and UAV marked by red triangles, alongside a photo of a Hamas operative carrying an anti-aircraft weapon (Source: T.me/Qassambrigades, February 19, 2024)

The Red Triangle As A Propaganda Symbol

According to online videos and reports, the triangle originates in the Palestinian flag. This is explained in a video posted on the X account of the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel that calls the triangle "an icon of the resistance's victory."


Screenshot from the video on Al-Jazeera's X account (Source: Twitter.com/AJArabicnet, November 17, 2023)

This is also evident from a video posted on Hamas' Telegram channel, where the triangle serves to identify Israeli targets and then unites with the red triangle of the Palestinian flag. A caption beneath it reads "The arrow that is closest to our hearts."


Screenshots from the video on Hamas' Telegram channel "The arrow that is closest to our hearts" (Source: T.me/Hamasps, November 21, 2023)

A cartoon posted on X presents "the steps towards the liberation" of Palestine from 1948 to 2023, each of them illustrated with a version of the red triangle: a victory sign, a slingshot, the Arabic numeral seven (standing for October 7, 2023), a triangle-shaped face-mask, the red triangle marking a tank as a symbol, and the red triangle of the Palestinian flag.


Source: Twitter.com/AmnahHende, November 8, 2023

The Red Triangle Spreads To Videos From The West Bank

Beginning in December 2023, the red triangle began appearing in graphics and videos shared by Palestinians from the West Bank, also marking Israeli soldiers as targets. Below are several examples:

On December 4, 2023, Hamas in the West Bank published on its Telegram channel a graphic depicting an armed and uniformed Hamas operative stepping on an Israeli tank as an Israeli soldier tries to crawl away, with a flaming red triangle in the background. The caption reads: "At Allah's command, we will cut you down and shatter the illusion of your state."


Source: T.me/hamaswestbank, December 4, 2023

A graphic posted March 16, 2024 on a pro-Hamas Telegram channel shows a fighter armed with an AK-47 aiming at a house in an Israeli settlement. The house is marked with the red triangle, and the caption reads: "We will not be humiliated." [2] The post was hashtagged in Arabic: "Hebron Rises Up."


Source: T.me/mutared, March 16, 2024

On December 18, 2023, an X user shared a video published by the Tulkarm Brigade of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) showing an Israeli soldier marked with a red triangle being targeted by an IED. The user commented: "The red triangle, this time in the West Bank."


Source: Twitter.com/fouadkhreiss, December 18, 2023

A video from Nablus posted on X on December 24, 2023 shows Israeli soldiers  marked with the triangle. The user commented: "Images from the targeted attack against the occupation forces and the confrontation with them… The red triangle has arrived in the West Bank."


Source: Twitter.com/M_Gooner, December 24, 2023

Another X user shared a post showing an Israeli military bulldozer marked with a triangle being struck by an IED in Tulkarm, and commented: "A beautiful thing: The arrival of the red triangle with great precision in Tulkarm."


Source: Twitter.com/Scorpion8o, March 10, 2024

The Red Triangle Goes Viral On Social Media

The red triangle has also become widespread on social media, especially among Hamas supporters, who use it in posts praising the organization's military wing and describe it as a symbol of resistance that "strikes fear among the Zionists." The following are several examples:

On March 5, 2024, an X user shared an animation originally from TikTok showing an Israeli tank marked with the red triangle, and commented: "The red triangle that scares the Zionists has become more famous than the Bermuda Triangle. [This is] the creation of the men of the Al-Qassem [Brigades]…"


Source: Twitter.com/alaasai48902611, March 5, 2024

A November 7, 2023 post on X showed a blue Star of David being shattered by a red triangle.


Source: Twitter.com/HamoodAqlan, November 7, 2023

A similar graphic shared on X two days later depicts an Israeli flag being shattered by a series of red triangles.


Source: Twitter.com/Ayoubmarouki5, November 9, 2024

A graphic posted on February 21, 2024 combines a picture of Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obaida and a red triangle.


Source: Twitter.com/jacksonhinklle, February 21, 2024

A graphic shared on X on November 6, 2023, based on the poster of the Netflix series "1899," shows a burning Israeli tank falling into a red "Abu Obaida triangle."


Source: Twitter.com/TareqSufiany, November 6, 2023

On December 23, 2023, a TikTok user shared a video teaching his followers how to add the red triangle to their videos.


Source: Tiktok.com/@yazeeddesign, December 23, 2024

The Red Triangle In Arab Cartoons

The red triangle has also featured in many cartoons published in Arab, and particularly Qatari, media outlets, where it symbolizes the Palestinian armed resistance against Israel.


The red triangle marks a frightened Israeli as a target for a rocket (Source: Al-Sharq, Qatar, December 9, 2023)


Left: "Jerusalem." Right: "Gaza." The cartoon conveys that Jerusalem is still a target during the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. It was published on November 30, 2023, after two Hamas terrorists carried out a shooting attack in Jerusalem (Source: Instagram.com/alaaallagta, November 30, 2023)


"Triangle of Horror" about an Israeli soldier (Source: Instagram.com/rahmacartoons, March 7, 2024)


A cartoon of a boat made up of red triangles, representing the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. The cartoon was published by Hamas's Islamic Bloc student movement on November 19, 2023, the day Houthi forces seized the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea (Source: T.me/islamickutla22, November 19, 2023)


The red triangle stopping Israeli tanks (Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, November 10, 2023)


The "triangle of horror" over an Israeli tank (Source: T.me/Caricaturepal, November 23, 2023)


A red triangle breaking the treads of an Israeli tank (Source: Al-Sharq, Qatar, December 28, 2023)


"Netanyahu's victory" (Source: Al-Sharq, Qatar, January 2, 2024)


A road sign bearing the red triangle and the text "Gaza", as an Israeli tank approaches (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 18, 2023)

The Red Triangle As A Fashion Statement

In light of the red triangle's popularity, some people online have begun selling clothing and fashion accessories based on it, as shown in the following examples:


A red triangle necklace (Source: Instagram.com/silver.homee, November 25, 2023)


A red triangle necklace bearing an inscription of the Quranic verse: "And you did not kill them, but it was Allah who killed them. And you threw not [the arrows, O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allah who threw them, that He might test the believers with a good test. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing." The verse is often recited by Hamas operatives before they launch rockets, and its first part appears in the logo of Hamas' military wing  (Source: Instagram.com/blingitonnnn, March 6, 2024)


"Triangle of Horror" necklace (Source: Instagram.com/accessories_ayla_jo, December 23, 2023)


A sweatshirt bearing the "red triangle symbol of resistance" for sale on Amazon (Source: Amazon.com, November 20, 2023)


A T-shirt showing the red triangle above an Israeli tank, along with a Palestinian flag, for sale on Etsy (Source: Etsy.com, January 27, 2024)


Another shirt bearing the red triangle and an Israeli tank, available on Etsy (Source: Etsy.com, December 27, 2023)

* L. Alon is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[2] The caption is a famous quote ascribed to Hussein Ibn Ali, who refused to surrender in the Battle of Karbala (680 CE) and fought to the death. The quote is often used to indicate that death in battle is preferable to surrender and humiliation.

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