The brittle deformation of internal zones of the Rif chain, corresponding to the southern margin of the West Alboran Basin, is not or poorly dated because of the lack of stratigraphic constraints. We provide for the first time a direct dating of brittle deformation of internal zones of the Rif chain, in the Ceuta peninsula located in the westernmost part of the Gibraltar arc. 40Ar/39Ar illite ages from fault gouges in the footwall and hanging wall of the Ceuta Shear Zone range from 11.9 ± 2.5 Ma to 15.7 ± 1.7 Ma and from 14.7 ± 0.1 Ma to 18.9 ± 0.8 Ma, respectively. In addition, (Usingle bondTh)/He apatite ages from both units have been measured. They are younger in the hangingwall (~20–21 Ma) than in the footwall (14–19 Ma), which highlights slightly different cooling histories. Thus, we interpret the illite ages to date growth of authigenic illite (1M polytype) during exhumation through the top few kilometers of the earth's surface.This study of brittle deformation within the internal zones of the Rif chain reveals that an E-W directed extension occurred between ~18–15 Ma during the low temperature exhumation of Sebtide-Alpujárride units. From 15 to 11 Ma, the direction of extension shifted to NNW-SSE and only minor steep normal faults occurred. Brittle normal faulting occurred during a stage of slow cooling (~1–2 °C/myr) starting at ~19 Ma and coeval with exhumation processes within the uppermost levels of the continental crust. These new data emphasize a continuum of extensional deformation during the Burdigalian–Serravalian interval with an early E-W directed phase and then a NNW-SSE directed phase that match well the main subsidence pulses identified offshore in the neighboring West Alboran Basin.